The NCAA announced on Friday the approval of rules changes in college football, including moving the kick off from the 30-yard line to the 35.
While the ball will be kicked from the 35, players on the kicking team can't line up for the play behind the 30-yard line. According to the NCAA, this is intended to limit the running start kicking teams used to have during the play.
Also, touchbacks on free kicks (kickoffs and punts after a safety) will be moved to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. Touchbacks on all other plays will remain at the 20-yard line. According to the Football Rules Committee, this change is meant to encourage more touchbacks from the receiving team.
These changes are a result from examining NCAA data that showed injuries occur more often on kickoffs than in any other phase of the game. By encouraging touchbacks they will limit the amount of times the play is used, especially as higher scoring (see: Big 12) has resulted in more kickoffs.
Another rule change announced Friday could end up affecting games, possibly even more so than the kickoff rules. According to the NCAA, if a player loses his helmet on the play - facemasks and fouls don't count - he must sit out the next play.
Here is the wording from the NCAA release:
Another new rule that goes into effect next season is if a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, such as a facemask), it will be treated like an injury. The player must leave the game and is not allowed to participate for the next play.
Current injury timeout rules guard against using this rule to gain an advantage from stopping the clock. Additionally, if a player loses his helmet, he must not continue to participate in the play, in order to protect him from injury.
If a quarterback or running back loses his helmet late in the fourth quarter of a close game, you can bet coaches will be screaming for flags. Sometimes helmets just pop off, and there could be cases where there is no threat of injury. Regardless, that player must sit out the next play.
Two more adjustments announced on Friday:
The rules panel also approved new wording in the football rules book regarding blocking below the waist. Offensive players in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion are allowed to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (for example, straight-ahead blocks).
There will also be a new rule prohibiting players from leaping over blockers in an attempt to block a punt. Receiving-team players trying to jump over a shield-blocking scheme has become popular for teams in punt formation. Receiving-team players try to defeat this scheme by rushing into the backfield to block a punt. In some cases, these players are contacted and end up flipping in the air and landing on their head or shoulders.
At the core, all of these changes are meant with the intent of improving player safety. As more medical research reveals dangerous aspects of the sport, changes such as these will be necessary to keep football thriving.