It looks like Lynn Bowden will have fewer opportunities to return a kick to the house this season, as the NCAA has announced a significant rule change to kickoff procedures in college football.
Effective immediately, the receiving team may now call for a fair catch anywhere inside the 25-yard line, resulting in a touchback.
Their stance? There is a significantly higher chance of injury on a kickoff that gets returned than one that ends in a touchback. (Mindblowing, I know.)
By incentivizing fair catches, the NCAA believes the total number of injuries throughout the season will decrease, making the game of football safer.
Back in 2010, former Rutgers Scarlet Knight Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down after making a tackle on a kickoff return. Concussions have been becoming more and more common, and with extensive research done on CTE, player safety is now the focus for both the NCAA and NFL.
Before the 2012 season, the NCAA moved the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35, along with touchbacks being moved from the 20 to the 25. The NFL made a similar change in 2016.
As for the most recent NCAA rule changes made this week, it also extends beyond kickoffs.
According to the official release, “the offense will not be allowed to block below the waist when the block occurs more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Additionally, other than the interior linemen, all blocks below the waist must be from the front.”
Players are also no longer to leap over opponents on field goals and extra point attempts to help protect the safety of offensive linemen.
After touchdowns and kickoffs, the play clock will be set at 40 seconds to “restart play more quickly.”
For the entire list of NCAA rule changes, take a look here.