“I don’t mind saying I’m not the biggest fan of the rule.”

What happens when player safety and coaching strategy clash?  Coaches grumble, albeit softly.

The idea behind one of the NCAA’s most controversial rule changes for 2018 — awarding a touchback on any kickoff that’s fair-caught inside the 25-yard line — is to make the game safer. What football coach wouldn’t want that?

But Stanford’s coach doesn’t necessarily like it.

“I don’t mind saying I’m not the biggest fan of the rule,” Shaw said. “I understand and appreciate the purpose and the intent behind it. Anything that is in an effort to make the game safer, I understand and to a certain degree applaud.

“(But) field position is the basis of this game. To fair-catch a ball and automatically move the ball up is difficult for me to take. We probably won’t take advantage of that.”

Of the five Pac-12 coaches interviewed, only one, Washington’s Chris Petersen, is in favor of the change and even he thinks there’s more to come.

The NCAA did not release injury data when it announced its change. The organization did point out the obvious, noting that “fewer injuries occur during kickoffs that result in touchbacks than on kickoffs that are returned.”

“When they do studies, and it’s a higher percentage chance for injury on a certain play, we need to take a hard look at that and figure out how to help that situation,” Petersen said. “I think they have, and I think this is the first step towards it.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. It’s all about making this game safer for the kids. If that’s one of the plays that’s going to help us, it’s a good rule.”

I don’t know how this will play out, but I suspect Petersen’s on the right track to suggest this is but the early stage of an evolutionary development.  Similar to things like the way the targeting rule has been enforced, I don’t think we’ve reached the final version of what kickoffs will look like.  One thing’s for sure, though — those concussion lawsuits aren’t going away any time soon.


Filed under Pac-12 Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The Body Is A Temple

22 responses to ““I don’t mind saying I’m not the biggest fan of the rule.”

  1. Mayor

    If the NCAA is gonna do this they might as well just eliminate the kickoff and put the ball on the 20 or 25.


  2. 92 grad

    Will it be a live ball if the fair catcher drops it, doesn’t catch the ball but it touches him? There’s still going to be a mad rush towards the ball in case a guy drops it. Also, a low, line drive kick that bounces at the 30 yard line could still bounce and tumble back to the 10 yard line and it’s going to be the same high speed tackling and blocking.


  3. I understand the purpose of the rule, but it’s dumb. The only way the ball should be placed at the 25 is a clean catch in the end zone and the player goes to a knee. Every other variation of the touchback should start at the 20.


    • Mayor

      Even then it should always go to the 20. Move the kickoff to the 40, if the receiver fair catches it, the ball goes to the 20, not the 25.


  4. Biggus Rickus

    The problem with all of this is that tackle football is inherently unsafe, and there’s no way to eliminate concussions as long as people run very fast at one another and collide. Ultimately, I don’t see how it can be reconciled. Either the concussion panic will die out or football in its current form will.


  5. kfoge

    Well, here’s a way to allow the option for safety but not abuse the rule (tell everyone to fair catch a high ball at the 1 or 2yd line): If it is fair-caught between the 1 and 15 yd lines – the ball is placed at the 15. 16-25 yd lines – the ball is placed at the 25.


  6. MGW

    They should grumble. Not because its inconvenient or they don’t care about players’ safety, but because they’re given preposterous logic rather than actual statistics in defense of the rule. “Less injuries occur on touchbacks”. Well no shit. You can make that argument with any play. If X type of play doesn’t happen, less injuries occur. Less injuries occur if you quit letting teams take a knee at the end of games. Less injuries occur when you don’t play the game at all. It reeks of “we wanted to do something so we could say we did something so we’d maybe have a better defense the next time we get sued; no need to waste time actually studying this so we can make any kind of educated recommendation for player safety. Just needed to say we did something. Deal with it, or people will say you don’t care about your kids.”

    There is no reason coaches should just blindly support anything labeled “player safety.”


    • MGW

      To be more specific and realistic. The inevitable conclusion here is that all plays that involve some sort of open field chaos should be banned. Dead ball on interception. Dead ball when a pass is tipped. No punt returns. Dead ball on a fumble. Dead ball on blocked kick.


      • Otto

        Kick Rushers will not be allowed to rush past the line of scrimmage, and will only be allowed to jump with more enthusiasm than a bored fan doing the wave at a Braves game doing the wave in the 80s.


    • illini84

      Fewer not less.


    • Wouldn’t more injuries occur if they quit letting teams take a knee at the end of games? How many people get hurt on kneel-downs as opposed to plays from scrimmage?

      Or are you saying that they should just not run those plays, and have the game end once one team can kneel it out?


  7. Ben

    Bring on 7 on 7, fast-break football.


  8. Otto

    This is proof the NCAA could screw up a wet dream.

    The move the kick off back 5 yards to get more returns, get shocked that it causes injuries so in place of reversing their 1st mistake they double down on changing the game and institute the touch back.

    Saban is spot on with the rule, move the kick off back to the original place.


  9. Actually, disregarding the safety issue for a moment, do you think we’re going to see more onside kicks as a result of this. Since there should be a higher chance for the opponent to start their drive at the 25 (or better), I wonder if coaching/support staffs will take a look at the numbers and re-evaluate the risk/reward of the onside kick.

    Just a thought I had reading this today, about the Law of Unintended Consequences.


    • Otto

      Interesting point, if I am the leading team return a kick, I would put the hands team on,and leave the regular kick returner deep with instructions to just fair catch it.


  10. 69Dawg

    I never understood why they moved the kickoff back in the first place. As I recall they (the powers that be) didn’t like all the touch backs and that was why the move happened. Just move the kickoff back to the 40 and be done with it.