If Greg Schiano had stuck around at Rutgers, no doubt he would be applauding the latest NCAA rule change to kickoffs -- even though it doesn't go as far as his own proposal.
The NCAA playing rules oversight panel approved a significant change to kickoffs last week -- they will move from the 30 to the 35 yard-line in an attempt to keep players safer. In addition, a touchback on a kickoff means the ball will be placed on the 25 yard-line, instead of the 20. In addition, players on the kicking team will only be allowed a running start of 5 yards.
The desired result is for more touchbacks. The reason? It is believed that kickoffs cause the most injuries throughout the course of a game. Last summer, Schiano proposed eliminating kickoffs all together after watching one of his own players, Eric LeGrand, suffer a serious neck injury on a kickoff during a game against Army in 2010. LeGrand is paralyzed from the waist down.
At the time, Schiano made headlines when he first told Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger that he felt all kickoffs should be replaced with a punting situation. “I don’t think we’d lose that much,” Schiano said, “and we’d gain a bunch for the welfare of the players.”
The NFL moved its kickoffs up to the 35 yard-line for the 2011 season in an effort to lessen injuries. Schiano told Politi, "I think we’re wrong in college football. We should at the least do what the NFL is doing -- at the least. For us not to follow the league with the most research on anything? I don’t think we’re being as responsible as we should be. They wanted the fan excitement. But at what cost?"
After Schiano made his comments, Georgia coach Mark Richt stated that he, too, would be in favor of eliminating kickoffs. Richt also saw one of his players break his neck on a kickoff in 2003.
That idea proved to be radical for many. But if these rule changes work as intended, kickoffs might very well go the way of leather helmets and $5 tickets.