Starting this season, several NCAA rules changes will affect college football. Here is a quick primer:
The wedge formation has been banned on kickoffs. This means that teams will no longer be allowed to use three or more players shoulder to shoulder for blocking. A two-man wedge is OK. The legislation was adopted after the NFL banned the wedge, hoping to cut down on concussions. The NCAA hopes there is a similar effect in the college game. If concussions don’t decrease, two-man wedge blocking could be banned as well.
Players will have a little more leeway in how they wear their uniforms. Socks no longer have to be the same length; knees do not have to be covered. But there is one freedom that has been taken away – players can no longer have printed messages on their eye black. If they want to wear eye black, it must be solid black. When the legislation was adopted several months ago, many called this the Tim Tebow rule because the former Gators quarterback was known to write Biblical messages on his eye black.
There are now stricter rules when it comes to injured players. If officials stop the clock for an injured player, that player must leave the game for at least one down, and may not return without the approval of team medical personnel. This legislation is also a result of the growing number of concussions. In fact, there must now be a special awareness for signs of concussions on the part of officials and coaches.
Officials have been cautioned to err on the side of safety when deciding whether to stop the clock. But this could open up a whole set of issues, especially late in a game. Take the Marshall-Akron game in 2002, when Byron Leftwich injured his shin. Though he left the game, he eventually returned and his offensive linemen carried him down the field several times as the Herd rallied for the win. If that happened today, the officials most likely would have stopped the clock when they saw he was still hurt, and Leftwich would have been forced to leave the game for at least one down.
One other rule change to note, beginning in 2011: unsportsmanlike conduct fouls will be treated the same as other fouls. This means, taunting is no longer a dead ball foul. When would this really come into play? Say a player high-steps into the end zone or shows up an opponent after scoring. A flag would be thrown, the points would be taken off the board and the penalty would be marked from the spot of the foul. The rule does allow for spontaneous excitement. But officials will be watching for players calling attention to themselves, taunting, demeaning others, flipping the ball at a player and signaling for first downs.