Rule changes irk several Big 12 coaches

NORMAN, Okla. -- Texas coach Mack Brown was the first Big 12 coach to speak out against some of college football's latest rule changes, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy joined him in expressing concerns this week during interviews with ESPN.com.

Stoops' biggest concern was the potential for players to be penalized for continuing to play if their helmet is knocked off during the course of a play.

"It doesn’t make sense," he said. "It’s not anybody’s instinct to stop. I don’t think that’s very fair or very realistic."

Stoops and Brown both brought in officials this offseason to explain the rule change. For example, pass rushers can continue to rush the pocket without a helmet if they're engaged with an offensive lineman, but if a passer escapes the pocket or steps up to run, players must stop. If not, they can be flagged for 15-yard penalties.

"I’m not for that. Any rule that gives the officials or makes the officials have judgment calls is a bad rule because it’s not fair to them either," Gundy said. "Judgment calls make it difficult, and so you always want to take judgment calls out of their hands."

Additionally, players must sit out a play if their helmet comes off, which Brown noted could pose problems late in games. If a helmet comes off and the player's team doesn't have a timeout saved in a game's final minutes, there will be a 10-second run-off.

"They might need to look at that a little bit more," Stoops said.

The nightmare scenario? Being forced to run a game-deciding play with a top talent on the sidelines because a helmet came off.

"You can’t have a game changed because a helmet came off a key player," Gundy said. "That’s not a good thing."

The intent of the rule is to get players, some of whom have grown lazy in correctly buckling helmets, to take safety seriously and wear helmets correctly, which could also prevent concussions.

The question: Will the good intent outweigh controversial side effects?

"They’re trying to get them to tighten up their helmets, which is a good rule," Gundy said. "But those kinds of things have to be taken into consideration."

Additionally, players may call for a fair catch on onside kicks this year if the ball bounces high in the air after just one bounce. If it bounces twice, it's a live ball on an onside kick as it had been previously.

Stoops says he's "fine" with that rule, and Gundy sounded less concerned about the rule change than Brown.

"I am not a big fan of the onside kick. I hold my breath whenever you do it or you’re against it, because three kids, three players on both teams are going to get blown up every time. You’re just sitting ducks. You’re standing there looking in the air and a guy’s blowing you up. If that were my kid, I wouldn’t be real fired up about that," Gundy said. "I know it’s part of football and this and that, but there’s a lot of things that go on in history of life that we change when we think it’s better."

The result for Gundy's Cowboys? He may abandon the onside kick altogether with the new rules.

"Basically that means you have to squib the ball, and if you squib the ball, your percentages go down considerably," he said. "I agree with Mack, it’s not even worth it. Why run in there and blow everybody up for a play that was probably less than 10 percent chance to get, now it’s less than three percent?"