NCAA rule changes for 2012 football
As we close in on the start of the 2012 season, it’s worth noting several rule changes. All are safety-related, but several have the potential to significantly change the course of games.
First, the NCAA clarified 2011 changes related to blocking below the waist: it is now “allowed only by offensive players in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion.” The goal is to limit below-the-waist blocks to situations where an opposing player is likely to be prepared for it.
Next, players rushing a punter can only jump straight up or jump between two opposing players, they may not attempt to jump forward over an opposing player.
The much-maligned “halo” rule seems to have been extended from punt returns, where it is two yards, to kickoff returns, where it will be one yard.
Onside kicks will be significantly more difficult, because receiving teams are now able to call for a fair catch when an onside kick is driven directly into the ground and doesn’t bounce a second time.
If a player loses his helmet, other than as the result of an opponents foul (e.g., facemask), it will be treated like an injury. Not only will the player required to leave the game and sit out the next play, but once a player loses his helmet he must cease any participation in an ongoing play. Apparently the NCAA feels that players aren’t fastening their helmets adequately, and most such cases are the fault of the player whose helmet came off; by treating the situation more strictly, they hope to encourage players to ensure their helmets are fastened properly.
The rule changes likely to have the most visible impact on games this fall have to do with kickoffs. The NCAA is not only following the NFL’s lead in moving kickoffs forward to the 35-yard line, they are also moving touchbacks forward. The first change should result in more kicks going deeper into the end zone or through it, while the second makes it less likely that kicks into the end zone will be returned. It’s possible that these changes will lead coaches to try more directional kickoffs — and why not, since directional punting has become widely accepted.