Doug Rhoads on Officiating and Rules Changes

As part of the 2014 ACC Kickoff, the ACC held a session led by Doug Rhoads, Head of Officiating for the ACC. Doug holds these sessions annually and they never fail to be a good session to help understand current rules as well as cover the changes in rules.

General Officiating

Doug included some comments regarding replays during his talk. Last year, the ACC had 210 replay reviews and 49 of these were overturned. 75% of the reviews can fall in 3 categories – catch/no-catch, scoring plays (did the player get in the end zone?), and fumble/no-fumble. Additionally, he noted that the average time of review was 1:04 in 2013. That number has fallen over the last few years – as a result of better technology but also due to the networks being more familiar with what they need to provide for the replay official and being able to better anticipate those needs. Also, Rhoads noted that after all of the publicity that the celebration rule received when it was implemented, there were only 6 infractions in all of FBS in 2013.

Additionally, there will be 12 crews officiating games for the ACC. For 2014, those crews should be assigned to 8-9 ACC games, 1-2 Notre Dame games, 1-2 Army/Navy games, and 1-2 Big South games.

Targeting Rules Changes

In 2013, targeting was added as a new penalty to help with player safety. The penalty for leading with the crown of the helmet or hitting a defenseless player above the waist was 15 yards and an ejection of the player in question. The play was also subject to an automatic replay review. For all of FBS, there were 92 targeting penalties called – approximately 1 in every 10 games. And, 30 of these were reviewed and reversed.

However, in 2013 the review process only allowed for reinstatement of the player. It did NOT include a reversal of the 15 yard penalty. For 2014, that review process will now include a reversal of the 15 yard penalty. The exception to the reversal is if the player in question commits another penalty in the course of also committing a targeting infraction. An example would a player that hits a quarterback late and also gets called for targeting. If the targeting is overturned upon review, the late hit on the quarterback will still stand (and that part is not subject to review).

Low Hits on the Passer

The NCAA also has adopted for 2014 a rule regarding hitting the passer below the knee. The rules adopted are basically exactly the same as what you currently see in the NFL. Keep in mind that this rule is not just designed to protect quarterbacks – but anyone passing the ball. A passer is considered to be someone in the passing posture and in order for a defender to be guilty of this infraction the passer must have either 1 or both feet on the ground. There is no restriction of the rule to a tackle box or area of the field.

A defender would be guilty of this infraction if he hit the passer at or below the knee with the force of his hit. It does not mean that the initial contact must be at the knee. It will be subjective for the officials and if they deem there to be minor contact in the thigh area with the majority of the force occurring at or below the knee, then the defender will be guilty. The other elements that must be met to enforce the penalty are that the defender must be unabated to the passer – meaning if he is being blocked or otherwise engaged, he can tackle below the knee. And last, the defender must not be pushed in to the passer.

Adding an 8th Official

In 2013, the Big 12 received permission to experiment with use of an 8th official on the field. This year the ACC and other conferences will join in that experiment – with the ACC coaches voting unanimously to implement the 8th official. The new official will be considered a center judge and will line up in the backfield of the offense opposite the referee (who will always line up facing the throwing arm of the quarterback). The center judge’s responsibilities will be to assist with observing line play (holds and the like), spotting the ball, and ensuring the ball isn’t snapped after offensive substitutions (before the defense has a chance to respond). This will free up the referee to watch the quarterback only.

The feeling is that it will speed up the administration of the game. Having said that, there will be some experimentation with the mechanics of the officials’ roles and the ACC may make adjustments through the course of the season to better optimize the way the officials are used.

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