After Auburn beat Alabama 48-45 in last year’s Iron Bowl, the NCAA had decided to do everything in its power to make sure another atrocity like that never happens again.
OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s no way to read the proposed rule changes for college football in 2020 without recognizing a direct connection to what happened in the most recent Iron Bowl.
In fact, two of the 10 proposed changes are in direct response to the two key plays in that game.
The proposed changes have been presented by Steve Shaw. (His official title is secretary-rules editor, but that just a fancy way of saying head of all officials for NCAA football.) They must still be approved by the NCAA on April 16. But that’s usually just a formality.
Let me refresh your memory about the two key and controversial plays from the Iron Bowl.
The first took place on the final play of the first half. Auburn completed a pass for a first down with one second left in the half. Since the Tigers had no timeouts, what should have happened is that the offense should have been allowed to sprint to the ball and attempt a desperation pass. Instead, officials let the clock run to zero. Upon further review, officials ruled correctly that there should have been one second left on the clock. While the play was under review, the Tigers were able to bring on their field goal team. As a result, Auburn scored three points on the last play of the half, which was the margin of victory in the game.
Here’s the new rule related to that.
If the clock expires at the end of a half, and replay determines that there was time remaining on the clock, and the clock would start on the referee’s signal after review, there must be at least three seconds remaining when the ball should have been declared dead to restore time to the clock. With two seconds or one second remaining on the clock, the half is over. This change will not impact situations when the clock is stopped and will remain stopped until the snap, such as incomplete passes and runners out of bounds.
The second big play in the Iron Bowl was the last play of the game. Auburn faced a fourth down while clinging to a three point lead. The Tigers ran on the punting team but left quarterback Bo Nix in the game. The move confused the Tide, which left its 11 defenders on the field but also sent out punt returner Jaylen Waddle.
When 12 men lined up in the defensive formation, the officials threw a flag before the ball was snapped. The five-yard penalty gave Auburn a first down that ended the game.
Here is the rule that addresses future situations like this:
The defense is allowed to briefly retain more than 11 players on the field to anticipate the offensive formation, but it may not have more than 11 players when the ball is snapped. The new rule change would stipulate that this infraction will be treated as a live-ball foul. Under the current rules, the foul can be either a live ball or dead ball foul.
Under the new rule, Alabama would not have been in violation of the rule until Auburn actually snapped the ball.
Both of those rules seem reasonable to me, but there’s no way to read them without remembering how upset Nick Saban was about the two calls going against the Tide in the Iron Bowl.
Here is a brief description of the significant rules proposals:
– Players who are disqualified from a game for targeting will be allowed to remain on the sideline.
– The officials’ jurisdiction now begins at 90 minutes before kickoff instead of the previous 60 minutes.
– When any player is present within the playing enclosure subsequent to the officials’ jurisdiction, they must be wearing their jersey or have their numeral readily visible.
– No more than two players may wear the same jersey number.
– The number “0” will be added as a legal number. Any number to be preceded by “0” such as “07” or “00” will still be illegal.
– To enhance the protection of the snapper on kicks, no defender can line up within the frame of the body of the snapper at the snap.
– All fouls that have an option to carry over to the succeeding kickoff will also contain an option to carry over to the succeeding spot in extra periods.
– The expectation is that the instant replay official will not exceed two minutes to complete a review.
– Vests and/or altered jerseys with zippers, Velcro, clasps or other fasteners are not allowed.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 18 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. His sports talk show airs weekdays on the new Sports Talk 99.5 from 7-10 a.m. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @kennedy_randy.
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