Wishlisting the NCAA Competition Committee

Honestly, college football is great. It has an advantage on professional football in many ways. But, it could stand to improve in various areas to make the game more comprehensive. Furthermore, the NCAA at its highest level has numerous athletes who will play on Sunday. In order to accommodate the uptick in ability, the rules need to change–if only to facilitate the leap into the pros. Rule changes aren’t as publicized and conferences do their own thing some of the time, but I have included macro rules that need to be implemented across the sport. I wrote this in January for my other blog, but it’s relevant here since the NFL is tackling rule changes as well.

2. Feet. In: This is an example of a rule that a) does not make sense in general and b) has long needed change to accommodate the highest level of athlete in college football.

No other sport allows possession to be determined by only one foot in the field of play. It’s time football joined their ranks. It just does not make sense to tell a player that he can be completely out of control of his body out of bounds but as long as a toe hits, he gets credit for it. Many of these big name players are trying to play on Sunday anyway. No harm will come from changing this rule.

Continuation Rule AKA Completing the Process: This rule needs to be retained somewhat. However, the archaic black-and-white application methodology needs some help. When a player goes to the ground out of control of his own body, the rule in its current form makes a lot of sense. The underlying principle being that if you look like you’re flailing with the football, you don’t get to count possession until you come to rest with the ball secured. I don’t see why there is so much outrage pertaining to this particular provision. This part needs to stay.

The part, however, that needs to be fixed is the application of the rule as it applies to the end zone. Once the ball is secured, it becomes dead by Rule—e.g. on a running play where the ballcarrier breaks the plane of the goal line. The ball should be considered secured if the Force put on it by the passer is completely arrested by the receiver. This should be the standard for evaluating possession, not whether the ball hits the ground or not. This provides collegiate officials an ‘easy out’ when evaluating catch/no catch—especially when the receiver makes an athletic play on the football.

Overtime: Personally, I would like an extra quarter without sudden death. The Texas Tiebreaker gives teams the presumption of gaining 75 yards. For teams with strong defenses, taking 3/4 of the field as a given is absurd and unfair. Sudden death in general is unfair. And, many of the random permutations of these two schools of thought simply are not football. Playing fifteen more minutes makes the most sense if we want to preserve the integrity of the game.

However, I will never get my wish—and I’ve dealt with that emotionally and moved on. Still, if college football is going to maintain its current overtime arrangement, changes must be made. Barring a tackle for loss in overtime, the farthest possible field goal attempt is a whopping 42 yards (25 yards + 10 yard end zone + 7 yard placement setup). This, quite simply, is too close. The offense should have to perform in order to have a reasonable chance at  points. The starting line of scrimmage needs to be backed up to the 40 yard line. This may still be in range for elite kickers, but it’s stiill a lower percentage kick if the offense doesn’t gain a yard. This idea applies to scenarios where a team going second only needs a field goal to win. They should have to accomplish at least a first down to have a fairly high percentage shot at points. Keep your stupid overtime, move the starting line back. That’s all I ask.

The Center Official: In general, more eyes on the game is a good thing. Right? Trust me, it is. If you need a refresher on who the center official is, he’s the guy behind the offense—you remember, the one Jameis Winston bumped out of the way. Anyway, the experiment to have one crew per conference have this official was hopefully successful to the point where we will see 8-man crews everywhere next year.

This alignment and extra official allow the Referee (White Hat) to focus on his primary responsibilities—the quarterback, and reporting. In 7-man mechanics, the Referee has the quarterback and the offensive side of the line in his field of view. The problem is: the quarterback demands undivided attention, and penalties get missed—especially because the Umpire has the rest of the line and stands in the middle of the defense. In general, it’s hard to see what the offensive linemen do if you’re on the defensive side of the ball. With the Center official and the Umpire splitting the line responsibility, more fouls get seen and there are fewer missed calls. The difference in officiating quality is significant enough to justify any inconvenience associated with the offense learning how to negotiate the other official behind them.

Camera Angles and Replay in General: For some reason, unbeknownst to me, the NCAA does not have standardized guidelines in place for cameras. This leads to replay officials being forced to deal with whatever angles are available. This needs to change immediately. There should be an elevated camera corresponding to every major line of consequence—e.g. goal lines, end lines, side lines. Placing these cameras in standard alignments in standard locations would help eliminate obtuse angles and many straight-line problems. We have embraced replay as a way to reduce human error from the administrators of the game, now we need to go the step further to ensure that it does not creep into the very process designed to be the game’s watchdog.

Moreover, the LSU bowl game taught us that replay officials vary in their commitment—and, apparently, their ability to see. Regardless, the viewers of these games have been spoiled by ESPN’s production truck, which has the ability to sync up replays to provide a composite. The NCAA needs these production capabilities for these officials. There is no way to really know, but I’m curious as to how many plays stood as called because of a poor replay. 10%? Maybe more? If there is simply no angle, that’s one thing. But no call should be blown due to replay officials not having access to every tool available.

Ultimately, many of these wishlist items are pipe dreams. However, the competition committee is coming off its first playoff, which was wildly successful and lucrative. The sport has an opportunity to make a few very important changes which will further drive quality and allow the sport to continue to evolve. We will see what rule changes are ratified, and I may very well make these wishlists a series as I think of more. But, there’s plenty of places we can improve the game without having a damaging impact to its integrity. Can’t wait for the meetings!


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