NCAA football helmet rule is predictably backfiring

September 13, 2012 – 3:04 pm by McD

After the 2011 college football season, the NCAA created a number of rules to augment safety in the game. They moved up the kickoff spot to the 35 yard line and allowed touchbacks to come out to the 25 instead of the 20 yard line. They also instituted the so-called “helmet rule” which states a player whose helmet comes off during play must stop immediately or incur a personal foul penalty. The player must also come out of the game for at least one play. There is also a potential ten-second runoff of the clock if a player’s helmet falls off in the final minute.

One wonders how the NCAA could not have foreseen the most obvious result of this rule: that defensive players would intentionally pull the helmets off offensive players.

Several coaches have been in the news lately complaining about the rule’s implementation. They obviously don’t want their best players being targeted and missing key plays in the game. I’ll admit, some of the scenarios Jimbo Fisher and others came up with are pretty far-fetched. However, it boggles the mind that the NCAA would create more problems with a new rule than the rule actually solves.

Wait, that makes perfect sense because that’s what the NCAA always does.

They could have simply implemented requirements for helmet size i.e. that they not be too big or loose on a player’s head, though I can’t imagine many players wanting the extra weight of their helmet flopping around.

In their zeal to create a safer environment, they also could have paused and examined if this was a problem that really needed solving. Maybe they should have done a study or collected some research on the number of helmets that come flying off of players in a given game or season. They cited actual research (that everyone knew about already from the NFL) that said many more injuries occur on kickoffs than any other play. Thus the rule makes sense. And if they did a study about players losing their helmets, they certainly didn’t discuss it with the media.

It’s not that the helmet rule is a dumb rule either. Player safety should be the NCAA’s primary concern even before recruiting and rules violations. Pretty much everyone agrees with this.

The problem is that we’re stuck with the NCAA not really thinking about unintended consequences to the detriment of the game…again.

When they over-punished USC, the NCAA never considered the ridiculous precedent they were setting in terms of punishments for violations or that many, many people would have huge problems with the punishment process i.e. not allowing cross examination of witnesses or the potential for massive hypocrisy when the person in charge of punishing USC would turn out to have been the athletic director during one of the most hilariously corrupt eras in NCAA history at Miami (FL).

The NCAA also circumvented their own investigative apparatus and just used the Freeh Report to try to destroy Penn State football, even using some of the unprovable claims like the university favoring football over everything else as fodder for the harshest punishment since SMU’s death penalty in the 1980s.

Now with the rule changes complicating every game, the NCAA has clearly established a pattern of structure-free management. In other words, they do whatever is expedient at the moment to accomplish their goals. That is, except when it comes to eliminating the profit motive from athletic departments who care more about which conferences have the best BCS tie-ins and television deals than they do about why San Diego State is somehow in the Big East.

Time to reiterate the call for federal intervention. Teddy Roosevelt created the NCAA because a bunch of players died playing college football. He then let it operate independently, and it has become the malformed bureaucracy we have today. A petty, disorganized, yet in the end powerless organization that cannot implement any real change, just make the rule book ever bigger, selectively punish teams for violations, and fail to solve any root problems in college football. Really, thanks for nothing, guys.

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  1. One Response to “NCAA football helmet rule is predictably backfiring”

  2. Horrible rule change. UNC and FSU are the biggest recipients of this as they are purposely pulling off the helmets of key players prior to critical downs. I hope this ends well, but I doubt it. The rich just get richer.

    By ZebulonDeac on Sep 15, 2012

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