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NCAA approves kickoff rule change for upcoming football season


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.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

22 responses to “NCAA approves kickoff rule change for upcoming football season”

  1. luke_emberton

    what a stupid decision absolutely stupid special teams are so exciting and their basically saying “well we don’t want people getting hurt” stop it this is football it’s a mans sport you can’t handle it then don’t play

    1. bhb71

      What a terrible take on this. “Waaaaah, big hits r kool n kik reeturns r xciting, hoo cars if ppl git hurt, sack up kid lol.” What a selfish, entitled thing to say. Special teams plays are incredibly dangerous, and even if you lack the ability to empathize with the people who play this game or their loved ones, you can’t deny that the injuries caused by these plays are bad for the game itself by causing injuries to talented, explosive players like Lynn Bowden.

    2. KYcats11

      Boooo!!!!

    3. cats646

      Stupid rule change. This is the beginning of soon to be flag college football. Smh.

  2. UKfanforlife

    The punt returner has the most dangerous job in the sport. The kick off returner has plenty of time to make a move or two before a defender comes in contact with him.

    I can understand a rule to protect the punt returner.

    1. bhb71

      True, but there are more unblocked guys coming down the field running full speed at the kick returner, and kick returners MUST pick up the ball because it’s a live ball, there is no option to let the ball go like there is on a punt return. Both are very dangerous, but you’re right in the sense that they are different beasts.

  3. Dowser

    I don’t believe there will be that many kick returners taking advantage of the new rule. They usually want a chance to return the kick.

    1. KYcats11

      True

  4. Look Out Fireworks

    Starting in 2020 they will be giving the option of both teams being the winner without actually playing the game and giving participation trophies to both teams so no one gets their feelings hurt.

    Hopefully this will lead to less players becoming “visibly upset” and the need for teammates to “ try to console them”

    1. Smyrna_Cat

      Not sure why trying to keep players safe deserves such grief.

    2. cats646

      I’m with ya fireworks. It’s ridiculous at how wimpy our society is becoming.

  5. jaws2

    Look Out you are absolutely on spot!
    For starters, the officials are inept as it is; see Benny Snell last year! Secondly, this rule below the waist past 5 yrds downfield is an OPEN INVITATION to more piss poor calls! Are you telling me these guys can judge 5yrds WHILE they’re running down the field? Unbelievable!
    So, how many times in a season do you think they’re going to miss calls when it’s 4 1/2 yards vs 5? Or, it’s 5 1/2 and they don’t call it? This is for certain going to cost teams a game somewhere.

    I said about 4 years ago we’re around 12 years away from flag football in college and the NFL. You just can’t legislate a contact sport to this degree and not expect the game to lose interest. We’re rapidly becoming a society of metrosexual men at best. Ask any woman past 30 and they’ll agree. IF they’re honest.

    1. Smyrna_Cat

      Trying to protect players shouldn’t be taken as such a negative. You miss the old days where they would piledrive the QBs 10 seconds after the pass is gone, right? And remember when you could just LAY OUT a receiver coming across the middle, and try to take his head off was just pure fun. Yep, those were the days. And playing through a concussion was the sign of a REAL football player! Loved see them cart the players off on a stretcher! So what if they couldn’t walk again. At least we didn’t have too many stinking rules!!!

    2. bhb71

      Imagine being this insecure about your sexuality. I must have missed the memo where caring about the health of other human beings more than the “integrity” of a children’s game with arbitrary, constantly-changing rules made men less “manly.” Smyrna_Cat already made the point I was going to make about the rules, but I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you why, exactly you feel so strongly about this.

      It’s funny, because if you really want to play that game, I guarantee you that most 30+ year old women would leave their husbands for a “metrosexual” European man that watches soccer on Sundays instead of football, is sensitive to the needs of other people, and is likely in better shape. There’s a reason that the stereotypical “hot guy” is a long-haired Spanish dude named Fabio.

    3. jaws2

      ^^^^^^
      THIS is what’s become of a once great, power, respected nation. The land of everyone gets a trophy, and no one gets their feelings hurt.
      I NEVER said a damn thing regarding people getting hurt or taken out on stretchers asswipe/Smyrna! You obviously have a real problem with reading comprehension. Go back and read it and tell me where I was anywhere NEAR that. Idiot.

    4. cats646

      I agree with you jaws. And I sincerely hope that I offended some of you liberals in doing so.

  6. kjd

    Why would Bowden have fewer chances to return kickoffs? Is Stoops going to instruct him to fair catch anything inside the 25 yd line?

  7. ScoggDog

    I truly believe, in my lifetime, special teams will be eliminated as we know them.

    No kickoff … offense takes over at the twenty-five.

    No opportunity to advance a punt.

  8. Kernel Sanders

    What about the last rule change in the post? Play clock set at 40 seconds after touchdowns and kick Offs? That will be an adjustment and likely some early season delay of game calls after long, excessive TD celebrations.

  9. UKSanders

    Honestly, the NFL acting like it wants to protect players is a farce. If they truly wanted to limit concussions, they just need to change the helmet design to make them LESS protective. That may allow players to get hurt but not injured…i.e. if you and I bump heads as we are walking around a corner, our heads would hurt, but our risk of injury (i.e. concussion) would be minimal.

    In contrast, as stated in the excerpt below, players play with reckless abandon b/c hits don’t “hurt” but they injure.

    See the link below (and the paragraph after is an excerpt from it)
    https://www.popsci.com/helmets-concussions-football

    Researchers have known for years that helmets actually don’t do a great job of preventing concussions. In fact, most researchers agree they could actually have the opposite effect: wearing a helmet, studies suggest, can often make athletes more likely to use their heads as a weapon. A person is far more likely to actually protect their noggin if they go into a brutal collision without the false security of a helmet.

    IF, big IF, the NFL would lead by example and change the helmets, the NCAA and below would follow suit. The NCAA could be the trailblazer and change the helmet design, and I think that would put the NFL on notice as well, which would probably force the NFL’s hand.

    1. UKSanders

      Changing the helmets as I mention above would allow the game to remain the most intact to what it’s historically been (minus the massive, missile-style hits), and I think more fans would be happy with that than they will the massive rule changes.

      As stated above, it’s going to look more like flag football if the NFL/NCAA are not careful.

    2. jzoneblue

      your on the right track. equipment change is the best answer. they can already make a helmet and neck brace that vastly reduces the energy in an impact. remember the 1 inch foam on the outside of the helmet that several Buffalo Bills linemen had in the 80’s -90’s. that combined with individual spring loaded cells absorb over 70% of the energy force. not sure why the football powers look the other way at this technology.