LAS VEGAS • A new rule in college football will call for an ejection of a player whose hit has been deemed illegal by officials.
Leading with the crown of the helmet, launching oneself, shots to the helmet and targeting a defenseless player were already illegal and earned a 15-yard penalty. The change, starting this fall, is in the punishment: immediate ejection from the game; if the penalty occurs in the second half, the player must sit out the first half of the next game.
At the 2013 Mountain West Conference media day on Monday at The Cosmopolitan, coaches met with Big 12 Conference officials coordinator Walt Anderson.
“I’m worried. There are going to be a lot of guys that are going to be out of the game,” said Boise State head coach Chris Petersen. “We’re all all about safety, we really are. So hopefully we do a good job with teaching our kids that the game has changed as far as tackling and the shots you can take.”
Taking a proactive approach to new rules implemented by the NCAA for this upcoming season, Boise State’s defensive coaches met with a local rugby team to learn safer forms of tackling.
The exercise could prove crucial to the Broncos’ success, as college football officials will crack down harder on devastating hits.
“There is going to be a learning curve. Some will have to learn the hard way, but hopefully most players can learn the easy way,” Anderson said.
The “hard way” to learn the rule is more severe than in the past. Referees will be on the lookout for key elements in a tackle, including a player intentionally launching himself, lowering his head, leading with the crown of his helmet, and targeting a defenseless player.
“Some of the clips that they were showing us, we were all looking at them like, ‘Really? That’s going to eject a guy?’ It’s very concerning,” said Petersen, adding that differentiating between borderline-illegal hits can be “like splitting hairs.”
These aren’t new rules – what has changed is the enforcement.
“Football is a contact sport, and it will remain so,” Anderson said. “The balance that has to be struck is the ongoing tension between how to make the game as safe as possible for players, but at the same time realizing you have a game where there is going to be contact… to the head.”
The ejection is subject to review via instant replay and can be overturned; however, the 15-yard penalty cannot be overturned.
Anderson said the NCAA and rules committee are determined to enforce this rule aggressively, and that’s why they added the disqualification of the player who commits an act of targeting.
“Some changes needed to be made; more teeth needed to be put into the penalty,” Anderson said.
New blocking rules will also be in place, most notably the penalization of “peel back” blocks, when a player turns back toward his own goal line to make a block. This is intended to eliminate blindside hits.