Periodically, Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, will provide insights about rules changes and the mindset of college football referees. The CFO is the national professional organization for all football officials who work games at the collegiate level.

At its annual meetings earlier this month
the NCAA Football Rules Committee made several changes that directly impact the safety of the players. We mentioned in a previous column that because the 2012 season will be the second in the two-year rules cycle, the committee was not scheduled to consider any changes. However, it is always allowable to advance changes that have a direct impact on player safety. For this reason the committee proposed five changes to the rules, which the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) approved on Feb. 21. The changes will affect these areas:

  • Kickoffs
  • Blocking below the waist
  • Players’ helmets coming off
  • Leaping the shield block on punts
  • Protection of kick receivers

This week’s blog will look at the changes to the kickoff, and in the weeks to come we will take up the others.

Starting in 2012, the kickoff will be at the 35-yard line rather than at the 30, where it has been for several years. Additionally, the kicking team’s players may not be aligned more than five yards behind the ball when the kicker makes his approach. Also, if the kick results in a touchback the ball will be at the 25-yard line. These changes are intended to reduce the number of kickoff returns, because the risk of concussions is much greater on kickoffs than on any other play. The committee hopes that the kickoff at the 35 will result in more kicks into the end zone , and that the receivers will be less likely to return a kick caught in the end zone if they can down the ball there and have it at the 25-yard line. Preventing the kicking team players from being more than five yards behind the ball before it is kicked is intended to reduce their running start as they move downfield to cover the return.