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Greg Johnson | | February 28, 2017

Competition committee to advise on football rules

For the first time since it was established last year, the Division I Football Competition Committee will offer its input in the football rules-making process this week.

The new committee, a byproduct of the creation of the Division I Football Oversight Committee, will discuss possible rules changes in the sport today and Wednesday in Indianapolis with the NCAA Football Rules Committee, which determines rules in the sport for the overall Association. The rules committee will then conduct its meeting Wednesday through Friday.

The competition committee was formed as a result of changes to the Division I governance structure in 2015. Members of the newly formed Division I Football Oversight Committee inquired about the roles they should play, particularly in the rules-making process for the sport. It was decided that the Football Competition Committee would be formed as part of a substructure of the Football Oversight Committee and work closely with the Football Rules Committee, acting in an advisory capacity.

The competition committee is chaired by Ray Anderson, the director of athletics at Arizona State. Since the Division I group will be offering feedback to the rules committee for the first time, Anderson wants to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Anderson, a member of the oversight committee, was selected to chair the competition committee because of a background that includes being the vice president of football operations for the NFL, where a part of his duties was to oversee the rules process and the on-field game officials.

“No one can predict how things will go,” Anderson said. “But the task is to have robust discussions of all the items involved in the game. All the decisions are going to be driven by health and safety and student-athlete welfare more than anything.”

As part of the NCAA’s two-year rules-making process, this is not a year in which rules changes are to be made routinely; the exceptions are rules that would enhance student-athlete safety or to correct a rule that is misinterpreted from the previous cycle. Some of the items on the agenda include the targeting rule, ways to decrease the length of games or increase pace of play, blocking below the waist and technology.

A possible adjustment to the targeting rule that will be discussed would recommend that if the video review official can’t confirm a targeting call made on the field, the offending player would be allowed to stay in the game. However, that middle-ground concept may be losing some steam as it is vetted throughout the membership.

Currently, if a player is called for targeting, and the replay can’t absolve him of the penalty, the player is ejected from the game. If the ejection occurs in the game’s second half, he must also sit out the first half of the next game.

In the Football Bowl Subdivision last season, 144 targeting calls were upheld and 51 were overturned through the video-review process.

The length of games will be another topic of conversation. In 2016, FBS games averaged 3 hours, 24 minutes. The competition and rules committees will discuss possible approaches to reducing that number in the future.

“There are some who may say the length of game may be turning away some viewers,” Anderson said. “All the breaks, commercials and other stoppages are cited by those. On the other hand, there are folks that say that’s the way it is, and people have grown accustomed to it in the college game.”

The discussion could lead to talks about reducing the length of halftimes, but there are those in the membership who don’t want to compromise the tradition and pageantry of having the schools’ marching bands perform at that time.

Each year, the rules committee is presented with proposals that center on allowing more technology into the sport. However, debating the possible unintended consequences has slowed the process.

Last October, a proposal that would allow the use of video and electronic devices in coaching booths and locker rooms was rescinded. The competition and rules committees plan to discuss the issues of competitive fairness and costs associated with technology, which can be a struggle for some schools.

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