Big Ten Coordinator of Officials Breaks Down College Football Rule Changes
By Tony Gerdeman
It wasn't just the Big Ten's coaches and players who addressed the media on Thursday at the conference's Media Day. Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo also took to the podium to answer questions and talk about new areas of emphasis, as well as the new rule changes in college football for 2012.
According to Carollo, the emphasis this season will again be on player safety, which is where all five college football rule changes are aimed.
"The points of emphasis that we have this year have to do with player safety," he said. "That has not changed. That's been our mantra for the last several years, and we'll continue to work on the health and safety of the players."
The second area of emphasis was on unsportsmanlike conduct, which Carollo said was not an issue in the Big Ten last season.
"We only had a couple of occurrences where we thought we needed to throw a flag last year for unsportsmanlike acts," he said. "The coaches have done a great job in this area managing their players."
1) The kickoff has moved from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line in hopes of producing more touchbacks. In the event of a touchback, the series will begin on the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line.
"The kickoff, we moved it because we found that the kickoff plays, the situation for a kickoff, is our number one play scenario that lends itself to injury," Carollo said.
"We did that encouraging, if it's a deep kick, not to run it back. And the second aspect of that is the kicking players, the ten players not kicking the ball, they have to line up and start within five yards of the kick line. So we're not going to give the players and the kicking team a running start to get down to that 4.2 speed to get down the field and have a violent collision with the receiving team."
2) The receiving team on an onside kick will be given a chance to catch the ball before the kicking team can involve themselves.
"We are not going to allow the kicking players to blow those players up on the receiving side," Carollo said. "We'll give them the full benefit just like they called for a fair catch. So you have to allow them, break down, let them catch the ball before you make contact with the receiving player."
3) A player may not leap over the players who form the protection wall for a punter.
"The punt protector, the shield for the punter, you cannot leap over that wall there," he said. "That would be a personal foul new this year.
"We’ve got some really great video that we sent out to all the coaches, along with the new rules. Going over the top of the punt protector and landing on top of them. It’s not only the people that are blocking going high it’s the guy who’s actually trying to block the kick, he’s getting flipped over in mid-air and landing on his neck, and that’s a very dangerous play."
4) Blocking below the waist is now illegal, except in certain instances.
"Before last year, it was pretty much in the rule book that said that blocking below the waist was legal, with several exceptions," Carollo explained. "Over the years we’ve put in interceptions, change of possessions, kick plays, and so on it got to the point where we had so many exceptions and so many dangerous plays. The rule book this year was changed to say that blocking below the waist is illegal with only a few exceptions."
"We put the players on the field, offense and defense, in restricted and unrestricted positions. Linemen are unrestricted within seven yards of the snapper. Backs in the backfield within the tackle box, unrestricted as far as can they go low either way.
"Everybody else is a restricted player and it all started with crack-back blocks. The wide receivers were coming back in towards the safeties and the linebackers, and it got to a point that there were so many blindside blocks and going low, and I told you our number one emphasis was high hits and defenseless players and concussions, well low hits are just as dangerous so we’ve changed a few things on offensive linemen. When they go downfield, or backs, and they start retreating back toward their goal line toward the line of scrimmage they cannot block low."
5) If a player's helmet comes off in a play where the player did not fall to the ground, that player must leave the game for one play (unless the helmet came off because of penalty). The play would be treated as an injury and the clock would stop. If the situation happens in the final two minutes of either half, there would either be a ten-second runoff, or the "offending" coach would have the option of calling a timeout. The player would still have to miss the next play, however.
"We've been monitoring helmets coming off these players," Carollo said. "We've had, even in the Big Ten, we've had one game we had over 25 helmets come off. So we've monitored that. We've looked at what we should do about it. Should we charge them a timeout? Should we send them out of the game? Should it be a five-yard penalty? We settled on the option of if your helmet comes off and it's not caused because of a fall, you're going to have to leave the game for one play."
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