article The Rules: NCAA Changes for the Upcoming 2002 Season - Peg Wolfe - Big Ten Columnist & Doug Mraz (Guest) - 4/3/02 - Spring is here at long last and as football-starved fans eagerly anticipate their respective favorite team’s Spring intrasquad games, the NCAA Football Rules Committee, in a move now seemingly as traditional as the sighting of the first robin and the emergence of the first daffodil, has announced its annual round of tinkering with the rules for the 2002 season. Only four have real on-the-field implications. The rule changes with potential impact are: I. Substantial changes to the "halo rule," one of the more controversial rules in college football and unique to the sport, which requires members of the kicking team to give a receiving team member at least two yards to catch a punt or kickoff (the NFL does not have such a rule - yet). The old rule carried a mere five-yard penalty; certain teams with poor kick coverage units would commit the penalty for the purpose of forcing a good return man to make a fair catch. The intent of the rule, increased player safety, is good; as Donnie Duncan, Rules Committee chair and senior associate commissioner of the Big 12 conference, noted, "…the committee is intent on providing returners a measure of safety when they are in the vulnerable position of not seeing opponents coming at them while they are looking up for the ball." The problem is in the application. It takes a lot for a defender who is keying on the return man to suddenly pull up two yards short of a return man to comply with the halo rule. This is especially true when a return man "runs up" toward the defender to catch the ball, while the return man is running full speed downfield. This rule change will have a significant impact; former Illinois coach Lou Tepper used to refer to the punt the most important play in football because of its impact on field position. A five yard penalty for a halo violation didn't seem like a big deal. But with a 10 yard penalty, it will be in effect rewarding the receiving team with an automatic first down for a non-contact halo rule violation. II. Somewhat pursuant to the above, the next substantive change will take effect in the event that, say, at the end of an overtime period with the game still tied, the defender plows full-bore into the kicker and laughs while doing it, and is called for a flagrant foul. That player would not only be disqualified from the remainder of the game, but a 15-yard penalty will now be assessed at the beginning at the next period, as well. Currently, there is no yardage penalty assessed in situations like this. This change strikes a blow for consistency, if nothing else. III. The most complicated change for the 2002 season, the Great Play Clock Overhaul, is being experimented with on a limited basis in selected intraconference games. As it is a bit complicated, here is the core concept, straight from the NCAA: “Under the experimentation, teams would have 45 seconds to snap the ball after the ball is dead on the preceding play. However, when the game clock is stopped for administrative reasons (first down gained, ball out of bounds, change of team possession, penalty, etc.) at the conclusion of a play, teams would have 25 seconds to snap the ball after the ready-for-play signal is given by the referee. “The 45-25 play-clock operation would be limited to conference games of those conferences that choose to participate in the experiment. Data on the length of games, number of plays, number of delay of game penalties, and other factors related to the play clock, will be collected to assist the committee in its determination of whether or not to consider adopting the two-interval system on a permanent basis.” The implications of this rule change are murky; even the aforementioned Mr. Duncan of the NCAA rules committee will only cautiously opine that “…the two-interval system may be a possible (italics mine) improvement…” Will it help or hinder teams that employ a no-huddle offense, such as Northwestern? Who knows? I have not yet heard of any specifics as to which conferences and teams that the NCAA will be using as guinea pigs as of yet; further bulletins as events warrant. IV. The only other rule change that is of consequence on the field is the NCAA’s granting of a penalty-enforcement option to a team that has just scored a touchdown, in the event that the opposing team is penalized for a personal foul. The team that scored now will have the option of choosing whether they want the penalty enforced on the conversion try, or on the succeeding kickoff. This rule change is the quintessential NCAA stealth tinker – the change that you don’t hear about or take note of until it happens during the first game of the season, and you are left scratching your head in bemusement, wondering what just happened and why. Clip and save the foregoing for future use. The other two adopted changes involve interview limits on players and non-coaching personnel until after the conclusion of the game, and the requirement that team facemask colors be the same for all team members, not issues that the average fan has lost much sleep over since January. Sadly, in what would have been a cause for rejoicing if it had at least been considered, no modification of the nonsensical “excessive celebration” rule was made.