Rule change proposals in college football 

February, 16, 2012

Last week the NCAA Football Rules Committee ended three days of meetings in Charlotte, N.C., by proposing five potential rules changes, which, if approved, would go into effect when the 2012 season kicks off Labor Day weekend.

Before we dive into these new proposals, let's first go over the process of introducing new rules.

Every year a 13-member committee, made up of coaches and athletic directors across all levels of NCAA football (FBS, FCS, Divisions II and III) meets to discuss a stack of potential rules changes. Those suggestions can be submitted from NCAA member schools, the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association), and various other groups such as members of the athletic training community, conference coordinators and game officials. The 13th and non-voting member of the committee is typically the national officiating coordinator, currently Rogers Redding.

The committee then selects the rules changes that it deems the most critical and, as it did last week, releases its proposals to the NCAA membership for the "response period," when that membership can come back with questions and potential tweaks. Perhaps the biggest influence over any alteration is from the men and women who actually blow the whistle. Conference officiating coordinators are among the first to receive the new proposals and quickly get them out to the refs to see if there are any unforeseen "real world" enforcement issues.

This year's five proposed changes are now in that review period and await discussion and approval by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will meet via phone on Tuesday.

(It's important here to make note of who is actually writing and implementing new rules. It is not the NCAA, as is usually the public perception. It is, in fact, written almost entirely for coaches and officials by ... coaches and officials.)

Typically, new rules are put into place on a two-year cycle. "The idea there is give teams and coaches a year to get used to the idea," ACC coordinator of football officiating Doug Rhoads explained last fall. "For example, the unsportsmanlike conduct rules that were put into place, saying that a touchdown could be taken off the board if a guy starts dancing or whatever, was actually approved a year earlier. But officials and coaches were given a year to coach players up, remind them, 'OK now, if you do that next year it will cost you six points.'"

However, the two-year cycle can be bypassed and rules implemented immediately if the proposed changes pertain to player safety. And all five of this year's proposals are safety-related.

"In all of our proposals, we are continuing the annual effort to find ways to make our game safer where we can," said NCAA Football Rules Committee chair Scot Dapp, AD at Division III Moravian (Pa.) College. "Without question, these changes will enhance student-athlete safety and we feel very comfortable based on the data we collected that the impact will be significant."

Here's a look at each one.

Ryan McGee | email

ESPN Senior Writer