ACC coordinator of officials on rule changes

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This guy was a special agent in the FBI for 26 years. He was a back judge for 30. Now he coordinates officials for 21 schools, including everyone in the ACC. Don't mess with him.

Doug Rhoads knows what he's doing, and he was kind enough to take time out of his day to discuss a wide variety of topics with me, Quantico and criminals included. (We'll get to that later).

First, check out some new rule changes coming this season, the biggest which will be clock-related:

  • They've adopted the 40-second play clock. At the end of every play, the covering official will give his signal, whether it's an incomplete pass, a first down or whatever. At the end of the play, the play clock operator will set the clock at 40 seconds.

"You no longer have the referee stepping up there marking the ball ready for play," Rhoads said. "It's already started at the end of the previous play. That's exactly like the NFL. So now, the team huddles, they come up to the line, they can be a no-huddle offense, be right up there and snap it when it's at 39, 38 or 37, or they can take the whole 40 seconds, come up to the line, call their play, look around, they can use all the time. It's up to the offense to determine the speed of their play rather than it being in the referee's determination of when it's marked ready. It's a good rule. It gets consistency. One referee may have been different than another."

There are about a dozen exceptions to the 40-second playclock, where it will be stopped or interrupted and 25 seconds will be put on it. Here are a few:

- A team calls a timeout
- A TV timeout
- Change of possession
- After a measurement
- If there's a replay challenge or a coach's challenge
- Between periods of overtime

  • The second major rule change also involves the clock. It used to be teams could kill the clock by going out of bounds. Not anymore, unless it's within the last two minutes of the second or fourth quarter.

When a player goes out of bounds, normally officials would stop the clock. Now, when they inbounds the ball and put it on the hashmark, they're going to wind the game clock -- not the play clock.

  • There were also a few that dealt with safety. The five-yard facemask penalty is gone. Now, all facemask penalties are 15 yards, but a player must "grasp, pull or twist" the facemask.

"If you just put your hand on the facemask or the helmet, that is not a foul," Rhoads said. "We used to have a 5-yard for a minor facemask. No longer. They're all 15. That's because you must grasp, pull or twist. That language is what makes it 15."

  • The other change was in the definition of the chop block. That's the dangerous move where two offensive linemen would work together to bring a guy down with a vicious hit at or below the thigh. Previously it was defined as when one of them would hit the defensive tackle, stand him up, and then his teammate, with a DELAYED action, would hit him at or below the thigh.

"These two offensive linemen, when one of them stands him up, there had to be a delay," Rhoads said. "We've eliminated the word delay in there, because how do you determine how much is a delay? Which guy hit first? What if the action comes from the defensive guy? It's harder to interpret so what we've done and what the NCAA rule has done is eliminated that delay. Now, any high and low, or low and high -- the low block can be first -- is a chop block."

  • Another rule change that involved safety came regarding the horse-collar tackle. This is when a ball carrier is running and the defender reaches and grabs him from the back inside of his shoulder pad or jersey. In order for this to be a foul, he has to grab his shoulder pad area and immediately jerk him back to the ground in the open field. It doesn't apply if you're in the tackle box.

Check back later for the latest on instant replay, what the officials got right, and what they're missing.