Committee proposes penalizing horse-collar tackles among rule changes

INDIANAPOLIS -- Horse-collar tackles, already banned by the NFL, may be outlawed in college football, too.

That rule change is among those proposed by the NCAA Football Rules Committee. Other suggestions include making chop-block enforcement less complicated and ignoring incidental face-mask contact.

The proposals put forth by the committee during meetings this week now go to the NCAA membership for comment. They must be reviewed and approved by an oversight panel before they can go into effect.

"The committee is giving our game officials more tools to penalize potentially dangerous contact," Rogers Redding, Southeastern Conference coordinator of officials, said Wednesday.

The proposed horse-collar rule would be similar to the NFL's, penalizing a tackle in which a runner is pulled down from the inside collar of the shoulder pads or jersey.

The often-complex rules on chop blocks, or tackling at or below the knees, would be clarified for players and officials, said Redding, who will become rules committee secretary-editor next month.

"It's going to be clearer to everyone what the foul is," he said.

Committee chairman Mike Clark, the coach at Division III Bridgewater, said the rule would lead to more consistent officiating.

"There was a movement to take out below-the waist blocking. I don't think that's applicable to our game," Clark said. "It's too varied and too diverse. But I think we've given the officials the resources to take out a dangerous element of our game, which is the chop block."

The NCAA gave no timetable for adoption of the changes.

Another proposal would eliminate the 5-yard penalty for incidental face-mask contact. Redding said coaches and officials felt no penalty should be assessed if a player grabs and releases the face mask as long as it has no impact on the runner's safety.

"It was a nonentity," he said. "So we felt like the real issue is the grasping, pulling, turning, twisting of the face mask, and that will be retained and still carry a 15-yard penalty. But we felt the incidental contact was nothing, so we just decided to get rid of it."

The committee also proposed starting the game clock on a signal from the referee rather than on the snap of the ball after a runner has gone out of bounds, except in the last two minutes of each half. Another change would adopt a standardized play clock system giving the offensive team 40 seconds to snap the ball, unless play has been stopped by officials for such reasons as change of possession or injury.

"The concern was that from one conference to the next there was enough variation in the length of time a referee took to declare the ball ready for play," Redding said. "So this will hopefully eliminate that and allow for a more consistent time for the ball to be ready to be snapped."