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Best Seat in the House: Rules Proposals for 2021 College Football Season

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings all, and welcome, once again to the Best Seat in the House. I know it's been a while since we've had content to digest but with the offseason comes rules changes, proposals, and other administrative changes to the game. This week, the NCAA rules committee headed by Steve Shaw released the proposals that will be submitted to the NCAA Oversight Panel and they will either be adopted or rejected on Apr 22, 2021.

For the full release, see here.OofABjr.0.png

Proposal 1: Extended Team Areas

This is really just an extension of the rule put in place last year that was implemented to help combat the COVID issue and gave teams more room to spread out and, theoretically, maintain a 6' distance. I personally didn't see this utilized too much at the level I work in, but I did notice my son's middle school team did take advantage of the extra space. The players all had round circles they were instructed to stand on and they went all the way from the 10 yard lines. This change is a little smaller area (only from the 20s instead of 10s) but it does give the teams more room to spread out. I assume we will still have players and coaches in the way and on the sidelines even with all this extra space.
Verdict: Will be adopted by the Panel.

Proposal 2: Unsportsmanlike Conduct

We really are going to need to see how the actual rule is written here but I would assume this would result in a team UNS penalty if it is called. It's probably going to be lumped into the band noise section and enforced the same way. I haven't heard that this is a big problem in football but it's such an easy change I can't really see the Panel rejecting it.
Verdict: Will be adopted by the Panel.

Proposal 3: Feigning Injury

The committee has been going around on this for a while. Lots of coaches are whining about teams faking injuries to stop hurry up offenses or to give their team a free timeout at the end of the game when they have none. Honestly, I think this proposal is unnecessary because with the advent of the 10-second runoff we really don't see this happening too much late in the game anymore. It's more punitive to have an injury and lose those 10 seconds if you're trailing than to just hurry up and get new players on the field. And if players are faking in the 2nd and 3Q, it's really impossible to determine if it's faking or not (at least from an officiating standpoint). If this is adopted, I cant imagine it actually being put into the RULES, it will just be new language in the existing section about "Fair play" that's already in there.
Verdict: Will be adopted by the Panel but will not impact the game in any way.

Proposal 4: Blocking Below the Waist

This is the big one and the proposal itself is extremely ambiguous. I've mentioned on here many times before about how blocking below the waist has been getting phased out of the game since 2009 or so. Rogers Redding was big on this push because it's an inherently dangerous act. Targeting, blindside blocks, kickoffs being moved, rules that reward fair catches instead of returns; all of these have been implemented to get all the really dangerous CTE-causing acts out of the game. Players will tell you they would rather get a concussion than blow out a knee and low blocks cause that more than anything else.
The hard part here is, what are they changing? The first phase out rules were things like editorial changes shifting the wording from "BBW is Legal EXCEPT to BBW is ILLEGAL except" (mindset change), adding the 10-2 region for low blocks, eliminating directions on the field you were allowed to low block (not back towards the ball, not towards your own goalline), and then adding the 5-yard belt for both teams (teams can only block low within 5 yards to either side of the Line of Scrimmage. This proposal sounds like they're going to only make blocking low in the tackle box legal so if that happens, BBW will be similar to clipping in that it can only happen the moment after the snap by interior linemen.
Verdict: Will be adopted by the Panel.

Points of Emphasis:

These will not be written as new rules but with every new rulebook there is a page or two at the front of the book that outline the points of emphasis for that current edition. The new POEs for 2021 are these:

  • Taunting
    They're just going to add that the conference can take extra punitive action after the game. No real change to the rulebook. This is how the next bullet should be handled.
    Verdict: Will be adopted by the Panel

  • Uniform Rules
    Ugh I freaking HATE this because it just makes officials even more the bad guy because now we're playing uniform police. Players never listen to us about this anyway and as soon as we enforce it, we make this big huge deal out of how they're wearing their uniforms. Coaches get pissed because we take a player out of the game and it's just dumb. This becomes the least enforced rule we have because officials don't want to deal with it. But the rules committee has been, for years, trying to stop the sloppy uniforms that some teams wear. They started a few years ago requiring the knees to be covered by the pants and for back plates to be covered by the jersey. That was enforced like maybe 2 weeks before we started ignoring it. If the NCAA really wants to lock down on this, then the CONFERENCES need to handle it, not the on field officials.
    Verdict: Will be adopted by the Panel and will end up being an afterthought.

  • Coaches protesting on the field of play
    Ah the new Dabo Swinney rule. Although he's far from the only coach causing this POE. We've had a number of rulebook versions really starting to clamp down on the tirades coaches cause on the field. We added a few years ago the UNS that can be called on the coach and lumped him in with players who can be ejected if they get 2 UNS penalties. But the problem becomes that no official wants to eject a coach so you'll almost never see him get two in a game. They're trying to emphasize that this behavior is unacceptable and remind everyone involved that penalties need to be enforced if coaches leave the team area to protest.
    Verdict: Will be adopted by the Panel
So there it all is. These are the possible editions to the 2021 rulebook. Once they are adopted, I'll try to make another post that dissects the actual language and how it will all tie in to everything else. The big one will be the blocking below the waist because that will actually impact how the game is played and it's already a pretty big section in Rule 9. Till then, see you in the comments sections!

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