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Playing Rules Oversight Panel approves rules changes in football, other sports

By Greg Johnson

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) during its conference call on Tuesday approved moving the kickoff and touchback lines beginning with the 2012 football season.

Next fall, teams will kick off at the 35-yard line instead of the 30. Also, players on the kicking team can’t line up for the play behind the 30-yard line, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams used to have during the play.

Also, touchbacks on free kicks will be moved to the 25-yard line instead of the 20 to encourage more touchbacks. Touchbacks on other plays (for example, punts that go into the end zone, or fumbles that go out of the end zone) will remain at the 20-yard line.

The recommended changes came from the Football Rules Committee after that group examined NCAA data showing that injuries during kickoffs occur more often than in other phases of the game.

Another new rule that goes into effect next season is if a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, such as a facemask), it will be treated like an injury. The player must leave the game and is not allowed to participate for the next play.

Current injury timeout rules guard against using this rule to gain an advantage from stopping the clock. Additionally, if a player loses his helmet, he must not continue to participate in the play, in order to protect him from injury.

Data from the 2011 season indicated that helmets came off of players more than twice per game.

The rules panel also approved new wording in the football rules book regarding blocking below the waist. Offensive players in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion are allowed to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (for example, straight-ahead blocks).

There will also be a new rule prohibiting players from leaping over blockers in an attempt to block a punt. Receiving-team players trying to jump over a shield-blocking scheme has become popular for teams in punt formation. Receiving-team players try to defeat this scheme by rushing into the backfield to block a punt. In some cases, these players are contacted and end up flipping in the air and landing on their head or shoulders. 

The Football Rules Committee raised concern about this type of action and proposed a rule similar to the leaping rule on place kicks that does not allow the receiving team to jump over blockers, unless the player jumps straight up or between two players.

Women’s volleyball

PROP also approved changes in women’s volleyball, including a proposal for substitutions to increase to 15 per set beginning with the 2012 season.

Previously, teams were allowed only 12 substitutions per set. The Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee recommended the change to increase playing opportunities.

Additionally, statistics can be transmitted to the bench area beginning next season. The Volleyball Rules Committee noted that it is common to see electronic devices such as laptops and iPads in the bench area. However, audio or video transmissions to the bench area remain restricted.

Another rules change for 2012 is that referee platforms should be distributed evenly behind the net pole, with the ladder being evenly distributed behind the back of the platform. Some referee platforms currently are constructed so that players attempting to play a ball near the stand could make contact with an inflexible object (the ladder, for example).

PROP also backed the rules committee’s clarification on a uniform rule that will be implemented in 2013. The rule centers on either the libero or her teammates wearing a solid-colored jersey. The libero’s shirt or jersey must be in clear contrast to the other members of the team. 

A one-inch trim and piping along the seams of the jersey will be allowable. But it is imperative that the libero’s jersey be distinguishable for identification purposes.

Water polo

PROP approved proposals in men’s water polo that limit the course to 25 meters and shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds. Both become effective in the 2012-13 academic year.

Previously, the men’s course was not to exceed 30 meters and the shot clock was 35 seconds. The changes are being implemented with the goal of producing more offense.

Women’s bowling

In bowling, PROP approved a new rule that states the bottom half of the player uniform shall have at least a four-inch inseam.

The uniform bottoms should fit loosely at the opening above the knee. Loose-fitting shirts are to be tucked into the lower body garment or folded. Form-fitting shirts may be worn, but at no time should a student-athlete show a bare abdomen or midriff, including during the completion of a shot.

Also, the official will be the only person allowed to make a ruling on a foul decision. Previously, coaches were permitted to make rulings of this nature.