The NCAA Football Rules Committee passed several rules changes, effective for the 2012 season, intended to enhance student-athlete safety.
Kickoff and Touchback Starting Lines Moved: Kickoffs will take place at the 35-yard line (instead of at the 30-yard line), and kicking team players must be no further than five yards from the 35 at the kick. This is intended to limit the running start kicking teams have during the play. The committee also voted to move the touchback distance on free kicks to the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line to encourage more touchbacks. NCAA data indicates injuries during kickoffs occur more often than in other phases of the game.
Loss of Helmet During Play: If a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, like 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 play to protect him from injury. Data collected during the 2011 season indicated that helmets came off of players more than two times per game.
Blocking Below the Waist: The intent of the changes made last season were to only allow blocking below the waist when the opposing player is likely to be prepared for this contact, but the opposite impact was discovered in some cases. To clarify the intent, blocking below the waist is only allowed by offensive players in the tackle box at the snap that are not in motion. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (e.g. straight ahead blocks).
Shield Blocking Scheme on Punting Plays: The Football Rules Committee reviewed several examples of shield blocking, which has become a popular blocking scheme for punting teams. In several cases, a receiving team player attempts to jump over this type of scheme in 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 committee is extremely concerned 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.
Additional Protection to Kick Returner: Through officiating interpretation, kick returners are provided protection of one yard (in front of the returner) to complete a catch before the kicking team is allowed to make contact.
Bounty Program Education: The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, which is responsible for overseeing NCAA health and safety rules, and the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct, discussed the issue at their respective summer meetings and reaffirmed the NCAA rules prohibiting such activity.
Preseason football practices begin with a five-day acclimatization period that applies to all student-athletes, including those who start practicing after the first day. Here is how the process is conducted:
All incoming student-athletes must undergo a medical examination administered by a physician prior to participating in any preseason workouts.
The remaining preseason practice period follows these steps:
The NCAA also recommends these additional procedures be followed as best practices for other fall sports.