The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which met via conference call Wednesday, approved a new football rule to better protect passers from low contact at or below the knee.

The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below.

Exceptions for these types of hits occur when:

-- the passer becomes a runner, either inside or outside the tackle box;
-- the defender grabs or wraps the passer in an attempt to make a conventional tackle;
-- the defender is not rushing unabated or is blocked or fouled into the passer.
-- A violation of this rule applies when defenders are rushing unabated to the quarterback, and it will result in a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.

This proposal was previously discussed during the Football Rules Committee’s February meeting, but no action was taken at that time. However, since then, the commissioners of all 10 FBS conferences have expressed support for the proposal and asked the committee to support it.

Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference and chair of College Football Officiating, represented the FBS commissioners during a conference call March 5, when he presented the proposal to the committee for further consideration.

After some discussion and review of several videos showing instances in which the rule would be applied, the Football Rules Committee unanimously recommended the proposal with the rationale that passers are defenseless while throwing the ball and vulnerable to injury from low hits.

Surveys of college football coaches indicate support of the new rule among head coaches.