Alright, let me first say the NCAA Football Rules Committee
deserves credit for attempting to improve the helmet-contact
rules. This is only the second change to these rules since 1976.
They also should be credited with accepting input from the NATA/AFCA
Task Force on Spearing. I don't want anyone to think I'm a spoil
sport. That being said ...
When you get right down to it, the NCAA's 2005 changes to the
helmet-contact rules didn't really change much. They did take
out the word “intentional” from each of the three rules. On
the surface this appears to be a good thing. However, if you
look a little closer you see they replaced it with “attempt
to punish the opponent”. Take a peek ....
Spearing is the use of the helmet (including the face
mask) in an attempt to punish an opponent.
2. No player shall use his helmet (including the face
mask) to butt or ram an opponent or attempt to punish
3. No player shall strike a runner with the crown or top
of the helmet in an attempt to punish him.
Spearing is the intentional use of the helmet (including
the face mask) in an attempt to punish an opponent.
2. No player intentionally shall use his helmet (including
the face mask) to butt or ram an opponent.
3. No player intentionally shall strike a runner with
the crown or top of his helmet.
Okay, so it was already there regarding the spearing rule.
And it should be there because that correctly defines spearing.
But they actually added it in to rules #2 and #3 when it wasn't
even there in 2004. So this was no accident. I guess you could
say it was ... intentional.
So the question becomes can you unintentionally attempt
to punish an opponent? While I'm sure it can be debated, I
certainly don't think so. When I saw the rule changes for
2005 I was disappointed. This was not the recommendation from
the NATA/AFCA Task Force
on Spearing in Football. We simply wanted the rules to
be interpreted by officials so they didn't have to worry about
intent and they could penalize head-down contact. It can easily
be argued that the rules now are more confounding.
It appears the NCAA Football Rules Committee does not want
to penalize unintentional head-down contact. This appears
to be the 'great divide' between the football practitioners
and the medical professionals.
If you take a look at the penalty
data you can see there was not a significant change in
2005. While the butting/ramming penalty tripled in frequency
it still only reached 21 in 2005. Those numbers aren't going
to cut it as a deterrent to players. So it certainly did not
appear to make a difference in year number one of the rule
Well that was only one year. But I am not particularly optimistic
that these penalties will be any better enforced in 2006.
Realistically, the penalties have NEVER been adaquately called.
And let's be honest an enforcement level of once in every
58 games isn't going to deter anyone. And these rules should
be a deterent.
I would like to see these penalties called on a level with
the face mask penalties, about once in every 1.4 games. And
that seems to be a pretty tall order. We'll have to wait and
see what the 2006 season brings.
The penalty data for 2006 is now available for Division 1,
NCAA. And once again there was not a significant change in
the helmet contact penalties called. In 2006 there were only
12 spearing penalties and 21 butting/ramming penalties called.
More detailed penalty enforcement data is available here.