2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Calhoun’s rules committee kills one controversial rule, adopts another

Published: March 6, 2014, 10:49 pm, by Brent Briggeman

College football rules committee chairman Troy Calhoun said the infamous 10-second rule was shelved because evidence that it would prevent injuries was not conclusive.

The Air Force coach and his committee were criticized by coaches of fast-paced offenses who felt the rule was written as a strategic crutch to help defenses that hadn’t found an answer to the increase in tempo. The rule would have prevented teams from snapping the ball until 10 seconds had run off the play clock to allow defenses a chance to substitute for tired, potentially injury-prone players.

The committee had approved the rule, pending a comment period in which it was going to gather data.

“The bottom line was just from the medical community as a whole, there was nothing that was conclusive,” Calhoun said on Thursday.

Calhoun said he never wavered in his sincerity for the rule. Had evidence been found that a faster pace of play makes participants more likely to be injured – or worse – he would have supported it.

“All along I thought that the task and focus was pretty pin-point,” Calhoun said. “Was it a medical and safety concern or not? Or was it conditioning? It’s beyond liability, it’s the responsibility.”

Controversy may yet find that committee. On Thursday, the group sent for consideration a rule that would implement a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty for defenders who, after approaching the quarterback unabated, forcibly hit him at or below the knee.

The rule now enters a 30-day comment period before it will be considered by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel.

Imagine the game-turning impact of a call that turns a potential sack into a 15-yard penalty on the defense. That one might rile up some fans and coaches.

“It will really create some, I don’t want to say divisiveness, but there will be some pretty sturdy opinions,” Calhoun said.

The rule would become void if the passer becomes a runner, either inside or outside the tackle box, or if the defender wraps up the passer in an attempt to make a conventional tackle, or if the defender is not unabated or is blocked or fouled into the passer.

The committee unanimously recommended the proposal, which originated in a committee of conference commissioners.

“We have seen how the NFL’s change in this area has impacted behavior and improved the safety of the game for passers,” said Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference and chair of College Football Officiating. “We view this rule change as essential, and we are pleased that the process allows our direct input and that the committee agreed with this proposal.”

One rules change that shouldn’t draw much backlash is the reversal of a rule instituted this past season that upheld a 15-yard penalty attached to a targeting call, even when the targeting itself was overturned by replay. The 15 yards would still be taken off if the call had been made in conjunction with a foul such as a late hit out of bounds or roughing the passer, but otherwise it would be canceled along with the ejection of the violating player if that play was overturned.

“It was just about getting it right,” said Calhoun, who said the rule was originally written as it was because the intent was not to replay target plays immediately, but rather to wait until a dead ball situation – at which point it would have been too late to go back on the 15-yard penalty.