- David Ubben, College Football
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AUSTIN, Texas -- College football's going to look a little different next year, and Mack Brown isn't so sure the new rule changes are going to benefit the game.
Texas' coaches spent an hour with officials on Monday, and Brown left with several concerns.
Perhaps his biggest complaint?
The ambiguity of the new helmet rule, which Brown says is "a little gray."
Next year, if a player loses his helmet, he has to sit out a play, but that's not the only rule change. Depending on the situation, the play can be stopped, or a player who loses his helmet can't continue playing.
When play will be stopped or a player made to quit playing, though, is a difficult judgment call with a 15-yard penalty at stake.
"If I'm a defensive end rushing the passer, supposedly I can rush him, but quarterback steps up, I can't continue to rush or it's a penalty," Brown said. "If you lose your helmet, you have to come out of the game for a play, regardless. So, your quarterback could lose his helmet on the next to the last play of the game and he's out for the last play. And also if you lose your helmet within ‑‑ in the last minutes of the half at the end of the game, you can have the 10-second runoff rule."
Brown used the example of last year's last-second win over Texas A&M. The game-winning field goal was kicked with three seconds left, but if Texas hadn't had a timeout late, a player's helmet coming off could force a 10-second runoff and end the game.
While Brown, and I would assume most people, agree with the rule's intent -- protecting players -- the regulations could have some troubling consequences.
Brown wants to take some action before the season and get Big 12 Coordinator of Football Officials Walt Anderson involved.
"What you have is about nine coaches from all different divisions that are in a group with Safeguards Committee and they sit and make these rules. I really wish we would have more input instead of just being told, because we didn't even understand some of these until yesterday," Brown said. "What we've done when we make rules and make the official's judgment in a tough spot, I think we're hurting ourselves because how in the world are you going to know when to blow that whistle?"
Brown also took issue with the new, re-instituted halo rule that requires players to provide a one-yard buffer zone in front of players returning punts.
"Now, if [a defender is] covering me and I'm returning the punt and I bobble it and go toward him and he's within a yard of me and doesn't touch me ... it's a 15‑yard penalty," Brown said. "I really hope that we'll relook at some of those things and try to make a difference."
The halo rule applies to more than just punts now, too. Next year, onside kicks must hit the ground twice, or kick return teams can call fair catches and prevent defenders from trying to retain possession for an onside attempt.
"They're protecting the guy that's standing there getting ready to catch the pop up and everybody's running over him," Brown said. "If it touches the ground once I can call a fair catch now on the kickoff on the onside kick. You'll have to kick the ball on the ground. If you hit it twice, can bounce it twice, get it to jump, then there's no fair catch."
That's a tall order for kickers, and expect to see a lot more onside kicks on the ground next year. But where is the line? What if a player is bent over trying to pick up a kick and suffers a serious neck injury? Do you just ban onside kicks altogether?
Brown made a whole lot of good points and questioned the right things with the new rule changes.
Here's hoping his campaign for clarification, alteration or outright change is successful.