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New rule to protect passers from low hits

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which met via conference call Wednesday, approved a new football rule to better protect passers from contact at or below the knee

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which met via conference call Wednesday, approved a new football rule to better protect passers from low contact at or below the knee.

The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below.

Exceptions for these types of hits occur when:

  • the passer becomes a runner, either inside or outside the tackle box;
  • the defender grabs or wraps the passer in an attempt to make a conventional tackle;
  • the defender is not rushing unabated or is blocked or fouled into the passer.

A violation of this rule applies when defenders are rushing unabated to the quarterback, and it will result in a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.

This proposal was previously discussed during the Football Rules Committee’s February meeting, but no action was taken at that time. However, since then, the commissioners of all 10 FBS conferences have expressed support for the proposal and asked the committee to support it.

Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference and chair of College Football Officiating, represented the FBS commissioners during a conference call March 5, when he presented the proposal to the committee for further consideration.

After some discussion and review of several videos showing instances in which the rule would be applied, the Football Rules Committee unanimously recommended the proposal with the rationale that passers are defenseless while throwing the ball and vulnerable to injury from low hits.

Surveys of college football coaches indicate support of the new rule among head coaches.

Targeting

Instant-replay review on targeting fouls, which includes the ejection of the player committing the foul along with a 15-yard penalty, will be allowed in 2014.

Last season, the targeting rule was implemented and any player committing the penalty would be ejected and his team assessed a 15-yard penalty.

This season if the instant replay official rules that a disqualification should not have occurred, and if the targeting foul is not accompanied by another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for targeting will not be enforced.

However, if the targeting foul is committed in conjunction with another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for that personal foul remains. For example, if a player is called for roughing the passer and targeting the head and neck area, but the instant replay official rules that targeting did not occur, the player flagged would remain in the game, but the roughing the passer penalty would still be enforced.

In games where instant replay is not in use, the committee recommended an option to permit on-field officials to review targeting calls during halftime that were made during the first half. This is a permissive rule by conference policy or mutual consent of the teams and is the responsibility of the home team to provide the parameters for the use of video. The review must be conducted by the referee in the officials’ locker room.

Officials could then reverse the targeting call and allow the player to compete in the second half. The Football Rules Committee noted that many Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III games are not played using instant replay so this modification gives those teams greater flexibility to review targeting fouls during a game.

 

Highlights

  • The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new football rule to better protect passers from low contact at or below the knee.
  • The rule goes into effect for the 2014 season.
  • The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below.