If you’ve watched any Alliance of American Football action (and before you ask, I haven’t), you may have noticed an absence of kickoffs.
The AAF debuted last weekend without toe meeting pigskin following scores. Offenses simply took over at the 25-yard line. No high-speed blocks, tackles or collisions. Definitely no injuries.
“It felt a little awkward,” said Atlanta Legends coach Kevin Coyle, a veteran of more than 40 college and pro seasons. “For me personally, it felt strange not to kickoff and cover the kick.”
Obviously no kickoffs = less injury chances, which has started another drum beat about what college football ought to do about that.
The thing is, the rule changes already enacted have had their desired effect.
- For the first time since the NCAA began tracking such numbers, less than half of all kickoffs — only 42 percent — were returned last season.
- For at least the fifth straight year, touchbacks are up. The 2018 total of 4,273 was up almost 28 percent since 2013.
- The total number of kickoffs returned for touchdowns is down almost half from 72 in 2012 to 38 in 2018.
- Kickoff return yards are down 42.2 percent since 2011. That was the last season before the kickoff was moved from the 30 to the 35-yard line.
Still, that’s probably not satisfying for the all or nothing crowd. So what’s an NCAA rules committee to do? Well, if you’re Steve Shaw, you raise an interesting defense of the status quo.
“Imagine Georgia-Florida and the place is up for grabs and we just jog out and put it on the ground,” he said. “I think we want to do everything we can do to protect the play.”
That’s the most empowered I’ve ever felt about an NCAA rule change.
By the way, thanks for getting the name of the game right, Steve.