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Playing rules panel approves more stringent penalty in football

By Greg Johnson

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new football rule that requires players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders to be ejected, effective for the 2013 season. The change increases the on-field penalty for targeting by adding the automatic ejection to the existing 15-yard penalty.

Panel members during their Wednesday teleconference also approved a proposal in track and field that requires padding in and around the pole vault box. The proposal, which the panel had tabled in February until more details could be gathered on testing, goes into effect Dec. 1, 2013.

The new rule in football means that discipline for those players flagged for violations will mirror the penalty for fighting. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.

In an effort to address concerns when one of these plays is erroneously called on the field, the ejection portion of the penalty will be reviewable through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field.

Additionally, a postgame conference review remains part of the rule, and conferences retain their ability to add to a sanction. The committee will also allow a postgame review to reduce a suspension if warranted.

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel also approved a new rule regarding blocking below the waist. In the past two years, the Football Rules Committee has adjusted rules governing these blocks in an attempt to reduce or remove potentially dangerous plays. But the changes have caused more confusion and inconsistency than intended. The new rule focuses on the block itself and will allow these blocks by stationary players in typical line play.

In other action, the oversight panel denied the Football Rules Committee’s proposal to require an institution’s jersey or pant color to be different from the field of play, citing concerns that it did not enhance the image of the game. Additionally, the panel denied a proposal to move the down and distance markers to the other side of the field for the second half.

A number of football rules changes were approved, however, including:

  • To add a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock stoppage is because of injury.
  • To establish three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.
  • To require a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce it.
  • To preclude multiple players from the same team from wearing the same uniform number (for example, two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).
  • To allow the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew (the practice was used successfully on an experimental basis by the Southeastern Conference). This is a permissive rule and not a requirement.
  • To allow instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was in place only for the end of each half.
  • To clarify uniform rules as follows: “Jerseys must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, and be of one solid color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number.” This rule goes into effect for Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2013. Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III teams will have until 2014 before the rule becomes effective.

Pole vault provisions

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a student-athlete-safety proposal from the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field/Cross Country Rules Committee to require padding in and around the pole vault box collar. The new rule calls for the padding to be installed by Dec. 1, 2013, wherever NCAA competition takes place.

The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports supported the proposal for safety purposes after ASTM International, a nonprofit organization that provides a forum for the development and publication of international voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems and services, released a specification standard on the type of padding device that should be used in and around the pole vault box collar.

The padding must meet the most current ASTM Specification Standard and can be incorporated into the design of the pole vault box or a padding addition to an existing pole vault box. The cost is expected to be about $600.

Previously, panel members had tabled this issue during a conference call in February.   

During the comment period leading up to the approval of the new rule, oversight panel members received feedback from coaches who had reservations about adding padding to the pole vault box collar and whether it could distract competitors. Additional concerns centered on how many pole vault tests were conducted, and whether the tests included NCAA intercollegiate pole vault competitors.

After receiving information from ASTM officials regarding testing of the new standard and reviewing data and feedback from NCAA coaches currently using the new device, the oversight panel felt its concerns had been adequately addressed to merit approval of the proposal.