College Football Rule Changes and You

Sure, I’m a few months late on this but I think the hoopla has died down quite a bit and I want to talk about football. Plus this will help prepare for the inevitable onslaught a month-and-a-half from now of people asking, “What the hell is up with the play clock?”

Due to the length of some of the new rules, I won’t copy and paste the exact rule, but you can download yourself a copy of the 2008 NCAA Rule Book from their website. I’d encourage you to do so – I find it’s helpful to have handy on your desktop during the season. Page numbers listed below reflect the page numbers in the PDF, not in the document (just subtract one to get the “real” page number).

  • Rule 1-4-9-d (page 39) has been changed to reflect that all referees will be required to have microphones starting in the 2010 season. The microphone must also be controlled by the referee and should be the “lapel-type” (this is the most common one anyway).
  • Rule 1-4-9-g (page 39) has been added mostly likely due to the whole Spygate debacle thing, as it prohibits recording opposing teams’ signals.
  • The chop block rule (2-3-3, page 44) has been simplified to read that any combination of high-low or low-high blocks anywhere on the field is a chop block. Previously, amongst other things adjacent linemen could engage in such blocks.
  • Rule 3-2-2-h (page 68) has been deleted as part of the slew of clock changes. Last year, this was a new rule that provided for the play clock to be 15 seconds coming out of TV timeouts.
  • Rule 3-2-2-i has been deleted. Last year it provided for the clock being reset to its original state after an inadvertent whistle.
  • Rule 3-2-4 has been extensively changed to reflect the new timing rules borrowed from the NFL. Rule 3-2-4-b provides for the new 40-second clock that begins as soon as the previous play is blown dead. It has two other sub-parts. The first part states that if the 40-second count is interrupted for some reason, the referee should reset the play clock to 40-seconds. The second states that if the ball is not ready for play after 20 seconds, the referee shall stop the clock. After the ball is ready for play, the play clock will restart at 25-seconds, and the game clock shall resume ticking if that was the result of a previous down. Rule 3-2-4-c provides a list of situations in which the 25-second clock should be used. Essentially, the 25-second clock should be used if: there was a penalty on the previous down, a timeout (any kind) was called, measurement, change of possession, after any kick, after any score (i.e., for tries), the start of each team’s series in over time, after instant replay reviews, and any other administrative stoppage. Rule 3-2-4-d is the rule that states that if one play clock is inoperable, both should be turned off and has been updated to reflect that it no longer the 25-second clock.
  • Rule 3-2-5-a-12 (page 70) is also important. It provides for that when a runner, fumble, or lateral goes out of bounds the clock shall continue running on the ready for play, unless this occurs in the last two minutes of the half. (And even then, if there is an illegal forward pass designed to conserve time (i.e., intentional grounding) or a fumble that has gone forward and then out-of-bounds the clock will continue to run.) A new part, 3-2-5-a-13 has also been added to reinforce 3-2-4-b’s statement about what happens when the referee inadvertently stops the play clock.
  • Rule 6-2-1 (page 89) provides for what happens when a kickoff goes out-of-bounds. Last year, the kick off line was moved to the 30 yard line but teams still got the the ball on their own 35 if they accepted the penalty. This year, the penalty for a kickoff out-of-bounds is a penalty of 30 yards from the kickoff restraining line, i.e., the 40 yard line.
  • Rule 9-1-2-p (page 119) makes horse-collar tackles illegal, except on runners between the tackles and quarterbacks in the pocket.
  • Rule 9-1-2-q has been changed to remove the incidental facemask foul. Plays that were previously under the incidental facemask foul are no longer penalties. If the facemask or other part of the helmet is “twisted, turned, or pulled” then it is a 15-yard foul. When in doubt, it is a foul.
  • Rule 9-1-3 (page 120) replaces several rules governing hitting players with the crown of the helmet (a.k.a. “spearing”) and targeting a defenseless player. There are several situations in which a player is defined as defenseless, thought it is ultimately a judgment call. These are the examples listed: a QB after a handoff or option play who ceases participation, a kicker in the act of kicking, a passer who has not had enough time to get back into the play, a receiver who is focusing on the ball or has given up on the play, the kick receiver who is concentrating on the ball or has just caught it, players that have relaxed after the ball is dead, and players who are obviously out of the play. The penalty for this foul is a 15-yard personal foul, with possible ejection for egregious violations.
  • Rule 9-1-6 (page 122) adds enforcement for sideline warnings this year. The penalty for a sideline warning is 5 yards on the first and second infractions, and 15 yards thereafter.
  • Rule 12-3-1-a (page 145) is the first of many rule changes regarding replay this year. This change describes the situations in which field goals can be reviewed (remember the debacle last year?). Essentially, the FG can be reviewed to see if the ball was above or below the crossbar and if the ball was inside the uprights, so as long as the ball did not cross above the uprights.
  • Rule 12-3-3-a (page 146) gets a note removed about how a play was not reviewable if the runner was ruled down, because of the next section.
  • Rules 12-3-3-b and -c are new. (b) basically says that if a runner is ruled down, but he actually fumbled before becoming down and the ball is immediately recovered before any official signals the play dead then the play can be reviewed. There can be no advance if the ruling on the field of down-by-rule is overturned. (c) says that it can be reviewed whether a player went out-of-bounds or into the end zone.
  • Rule 12-3-3-h adds the statement that the replay official may correct an “egregious” game-clock error.
  • Rule 12-3-4 (page 147) states that no other plays other than the ones listed are reviewable. This year, an exception has been added for plays that are in the judgment of the replay official to be “egregious errors,” however, fouls that are not reviewable are still, well, not reviewable. (Only three fouls are essentially reviewable: illegal forward pass, number of players participating, and whether a punter is across the line of scrimmage when the ball is kicked.)
  • Rule 12-5-1-b-1 (page 148) changes the rules regarding the head coach’s challenge, adding a provision that a coach gets, essentially, a “bonus” challenge if his first is successful.