A college football player who delivers a hit to the head of a defenseless opponent could be kicked out of the game next season under an NCAA proposal that took a step forward Wednesday.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee said it had unanimously approved strengthening of the penalty for intentional above-the-shoulder hits. The 15-yard penalty will now have an ejection tacked on, assuming the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approves the plan next month.
Player safety was the theme of the committee's three-day meeting in Indianapolis, with the ejection for targeting the most noticeable change fans will notice in 2013 across all NCAA divisions. The committee also tweaked the rule on below-the-waist blocks.
Perhaps one of the stranger rule changes, and one Boise State fans surely will notice, would require teams to have either their jerseys or pants contrast in color to the playing field. The Mountain West had barred the Broncos from wearing all-blue uniforms on their blue turf during conference games last season.
As for the high hits, chairman and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said the committee wanted to address clear instances where a defender is leading with the crown of his head to hit a defenseless player above the shoulders.
"It's a real problem in the sport," he said, "and we need to eliminate it."
Last season, Calhoun said, there were 99 targeting penalties called in the Football Bowl Subdivision that, under the proposed rule, would have called for an ejection. He said the player on the receiving end of the hit in many cases sustained a concussion or other type of injury that caused him to miss significant playing time.
"It's not a gigantic number," Calhoun said of the 99. "Ultimately, our goal is zero. Is that realistic? I don't know if zero is. But I know any time you involve an ejection, we're going to see that number go down drastically immediately."
If the penalty occurs in the first half, the player would be ejected for the remainder of the game. If the penalty occurs in the second half or overtime, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next game.
The rule would allow for the ejection portion of the penalty to be reviewed through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that the penalized player didn't intentionally target a defenseless player in order to overturn the call on the field. Calhoun said the 15-yard portion of the penalty would not be reviewable.
The committee also attempted to simplify the blocking-below-the-waist rule, which was found to be unevenly enforced and difficult to teach to officials, Calhoun said. Now low blocks delivered from in front of the defender anywhere on the field are legal and low blocks from the side or back are not.
Previously, whether a player could block below the waist depended on his position at the snap, whether he was stationary or which direction he was moving after the snap.
The contrasting colors rule would appear to target Boise State.
The Broncos like to wear all-blue uniforms while playing on their blue home turf. The rule would prevent players from being "camouflaged," Calhoun said. Opposing coaches have complained that the Broncos' all-blue uniforms make it difficult to prepare for games at Boise because it's hard to differentiate Broncos' players against the blue backdrop.
The rule, of course, also would apply to teams that wear all green uniforms on green turf or, in Eastern Washington's case, all red on its red turf.
"Our whole point is we want to be completely respectful of those institutions that have different-colored fields, especially ones that aren't green, but still make sure there are some contrasting colors worn by that squad," Calhoun said.
The NCAA rule might clash with the agreement that Boise State reached with the Mountain West to stay in the league. The school previously said the conference agreed not to impose uniform restrictions on Boise State.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen was not available for comment, and an athletic department spokesman said the school does not have any immediate reaction to the proposed rule change.
Other proposed rules from the NCAA include:
• Adding a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock to stop is an injury. Calhoun said the intent is to prevent players from faking injuries to stop the clock.
• Establishing 3 seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock.
• Allowing the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew. Such devises were used successfully in an experiment in the Southeastern Conference. The equipment would not be required.
• Allowing the Big 12 to experiment with using an eighth official on the field in conference games. This official would be placed in the backfield opposite the referee and, according to Calhoun, would add another set of eyes to detect holding on the offensive line.