The NCAA announced today that based upon the success of the pitch clock experiment at the SEC Tournament last year, they will be mandating the pitch clock be used league wide in an attempt to pick up the pace of games.
After allowing the use of a pitch and between innings clock experimentally last year, the committee voted to mandate the use of a timing device and implemented penalties for non-compliance. Current rules require pitchers to start their delivery in no more than 20 seconds without runners on base. This rule remains and an umpire will be required to monitor and enforce this time limit. Additionally, in non-televised games, umpires will enforce a 90 second limit between innings. The committee recommended a time limit for televised games of 108 seconds, which the Southeastern Conference used experimentally during the 2010 season. However, the committee acknowledged that the time between innings will continue to be a negotiable point in television agreements.
This isn't a huge game changer by any stretch. The rule for length between innings and between pitches has been part of baseball for several years. This new rule appears to only mandate a "play clock" like mechanism so the umpire can track the time without having to check his watch incessantly. There's enough other things for an umpire to watch closely other than his watch, and this makes it much easier for an umpire to enforce because the clock is in the open for all to see.
That said, this won't impact length of games more than 5-10 minutes for most teams. If anything, between innings will become a bit shorter, and that's it.
Obstruction While Making a Play
The NCAA had a vague obstruction rule regarding infielders making a play on a ball at a base while a runner was coming to the bag. For example, under the old set of rules, a batter grounds the ball to short stop. The short stop fields and throws an off line throw to first. The first baseman has to move up the line towards the batter-runnner. Before the first baseman can secure the ball, the runner and the first baseman hit each other with glancing blows. This would have lead to an obstruction call against the first baseman and the batter would be given first base, even if the first baseman was able to secure the ball, then tag him before reaching the bag.
Basically, you're punishing the first baseman for trying to make a play on the thrown ball way despite the fact that the runner could have gone around him in the running lane.
The committee also proposed a slight change to the obstruction rules, in an effort to provide fielders the ability to make a play on a thrown ball during a play at a base. Previously, any contact made between a fielder and runner could be called obstruction unless the fielder had possession of the ball. In the new proposal, a fielder that has established himself will be provided the opportunity to field the throw without penalty.
“This change is being made after careful consideration of our current rule and how this play was adjudicated previously,” said Overton. “The rules governing collisions and dangerous plays have not changed, but the committee believes the fielder must be allowed some room to make a play on a thrown ball.”
The rule change gives the fielder an opportunity to field a throw. This makes complete sense and should reduce unnecessary collisions as the runner has no incentive to go right through a fielder making a play.
Home Run Celebrations
The final rule change that should affect Division 1 is related to post-home run celebrations. The new rule limits the dugout from flooding home plate by restricting them to the warning track area, or 15 feet from the dug out. As an umpire, I'm a fan of this. This slightly speeds up the pace as you don't have to wait for the 25 guys on the team to clear the plate area and return to the dug out. The other major plus is not having 25 teammates that close to the opposing catcher, which is only asking for one of the young men to say something stupid and start a feud.
1. Banned Wedge Kickoffs
THE RULE: When the team receiving a kickoff has more than two players standing within two yards of one another, shoulder to shoulder, it will be assessed a 15-yard penalty—even if there is no contact between the teams.
THE REASON: A 2007 study showed that 20 percent of injuries during kickoffs were concussions.
EXPLANATION: When receiving a kickoff, teams tend to coalesce their blockers into a tight wedge. The way to break through such blocking is to send one of the tacklers into the wedge like a missile and blow it up. Example here
You can see the violence involved in this play. In fact, the reason offenses can only have so many people in the backfield today is because the wedge and wedge-breaking were major sources of deaths in the early game.
The NFL banned wedge blocking last year. Now the NCAA has done it too.
IMPACT: This is ultimately a win for kicking teams, since blocking caravans cannot form while the kick is in the air. It will probably prevent a head injury every three to five games. It's also probably a win for Michigan, since our speedier blockers are more likely to succeed without a wedge, our speedy returners are the least helped by wedge blocking, and most importantly, we are glad it is gone because we really suck at it:
YAY OR NAY: Big Yay. This was a decision made to protect the health of players. Fewer concussions = Sam McGuffie playing for Michigan rather than Rice = win. It wasn't delayed, but it was based on good science. It also looks to open up the kicking game a bit more, forcing the returner to run around a bit and hopefully dodge more guys in space, rather than fight through a tightly packed crowd every time. Plus, the way they defined it is pretty cut-and-dry: when the ball is in the air, you have to be two feet from your teammates. Good rule.
2. No more holding L2 on your way to the end zone
THE RULE: Live-ball penalties for taunting will be assessed from the spot of the foul and eliminate the score. Examples include players finishing touchdown runs by high-stepping into the end zone or pointing the ball toward an opponent.
THE REASON: Old men with objects in their rectums get to make rules. The explanation given is that it's because it's team game. Ask any offensive lineman if he minds if a skill position player jigs into the end-zone rather than coldly running in like a pre-2004 Madden avatar. He don't mind. This is about large, oblong objects in old ani, period.
EXPLANATION: If you taunt before making it to the end zone, and are penalized for it, the penalty will now be assessed as a live play. So let's say you are a receiver, and through your mad football skills you beat a cornerback deep, your QB gets you the ball, and now you have lots of green between yourself and the end zone. At this point you should IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM DO ANYTHING TO SUGGEST THAT YOU ARE HAPPY ABOUT THIS.
If you high-step, hold the ball out to a defender, pump the ball in your arms, or pull a DeSean Jackson:
The score is negated, AND you get a 15-yard penalty.
IMPACT ON MICHIGAN: Well, so long as we continue to deploy 18- to 22-year-old athletes who are excitable and love scoring touchdowns, their body language is likely to negate some touchdowns. They don't say so, but I highly, highly, highly doubt this penalty will ever get called on a (white) quarterback who is jumping up and down in ecstasy while his teammate runs in the pass -- this is geared at showboat receivers and running backs. I'm calling it now: we will get penalized for this, because we have young guys who can score long touchdowns and this makes them happy.
I don't know how tightly they plan to call it, but this might count:
YAY OR NAY:
Nay. With sauce. There is a heavy smell of racism in this. Good sportsmanship is something coaches can teach and kids can display to earn themselves and their programs more respect. But the NCAA negating plays on the football field because a 20-year-old got too excited after the result of the play had been for all intents and purposes determined: that smacks of grumpy old men trying to teach those kids a lesson in manners.
3. No more eye black messages
THE RULE: Bans the use of eye black containing symbols or messages
EXPLANATION: Hey, waitaminute, you can't use all the television cameras to say what you think or represent -- only WE can use all the television cameras to say what we think or represent.
IMPACT ON MICHIGAN: Dudes can't write stuff in eye black anymore (unless a shoe company pays the university top dollar for it). I assume duct tape over one's mouth is still cool.
YAY OR NAY:
This is the second rule that could have just gone with a Don't be DeSean Jackson approach. There are precious few guys who actually get national exposure for their eye-black. It's basically Heisman candidates, and the odd Mike Hart-type fella who so personifies his team that TV cameras zoom in on his face a lot. Most eye-black messages are the school logo. Others are usually hometown area codes, or dead or sick friends and relatives.
The committee also approved a rule that will require all coaches boxes to have television monitors beginning in the fall of 2011. This is a good idea. I think. Is it?
touchdowns nullified for taunting!
so, despite the fact that the NFL rule change is so much hot air, the one thing it does accomplish is that it reopens the debate on how overtime should be handled. there seems to be general consensus that pure sudden death is stupid and broken. the college OT system—equal possessions from the 25—is better, but has never seemed perfect to me. here are my primary gripes with it:
- the 25 is too close. starting every possession in field goal range encourages conservative play. the only way to not have a legitimate shot at 3 points is to take a long sack or two short sacks/TFLs (out of 3 plays!), or to give up a turnover. lots of overtime games turn into field goal penalty shootouts.
- no special teams. overtime strictly pits offense versus defense. got a great punter? return man? too bad, they're sitting on the bench.
- no game clock. college overtime is nearly 15 years old, and every time i see a score bug sans game clock, it still weirds me out. this makes overtime play slow and deliberate. the NFL's sudden death OT suffers from the same problem, with the philosophy "pretend it's the 1st quarter again".
anyhow, those are just some ideas that i've been kicking around for a while, and think could work well and make for pretty compelling OT football. would you want to see them implemented in the NFL? the NCAA? i'm interested to hear comments.
So I was reading John Clayton's mailbag and a guy had a nice take on a rule change for OT. He suggested that the coin toss from the pregame could count for OT. I always hate that whoever wins the coin toss in OT could just march down the field and kick a field goal for the win. With this system if a team is down by 1 after a touchdown and time is expiring and they know they won't get the ball in OT then they could go for the 2 point conversion instead.
After Texas' win over OSU last night, Mack Brown made this commment:
"I think this is the best team in the country, that's why I'm going to vote us No. 1," said Texas coach Mack Brown, echoing the sentiments USC coach Pete Carroll and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said about their teams after their recent bowl wins. "I don't think anybody can beat Texas right now."
Aren't Mack, Pete, and Kyle all bound to put the winner of the BCS Championship game at #1 on their ballots? Am I missing something? Are these guys just trying to make a point, or do they not know the rules of the poll they vote in?