Move to eliminate kickoffs should be a nonstarter

College football wouldn't be the same game without the chance for Brandon Boykin to take it all the way. (Associated Press)

College football wouldn't be the same game without the chance for Brandon Boykin to take it all the way. (Associated Press)

College football without kickoffs. If you have trouble wrapping your mind around that concept, Mark Richt doesn’t.

Richt said Tuesday at the Peach State Pigskin Preview held at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon that he would support a proposal by Rutgers coach Greg Schiano that the kickoff be eliminated. Schiano’s idea is that kickoffs, considered the most dangerous play in football, would be replaced by a team punting from their own 30-yard line after scores and at the start of each half. If they chose to, they could opt to go for it in a fourth-and-15 play that would serve the same purpose as an onside kick.

As quoted in the Athens Banner-Herald, Richt noted that kickoff plays are violent. “You’ve got a bunch of guys that can run fast and are strong and they are not afraid, it’s kind of a manhood thing. No one’s going to back down.”

It’s easy to see where these coaches are coming from. Rutgers player Eric LeGrand ended up paralyzed from the neck down while covering a kickoff last season. At Georgia, Decory Bryant suffered a broken neck that ended his playing career and just last year freshman T.J. Stripling had a season-ending injury while covering a kickoff.

So it’s not surprising that Richt said, “if it went to a vote, I would vote for no kickoff also. I would just place the ball at the 23-yard line or whatever the average has been. I’m sure the defensive coaches would want it on the 18. Offensive coaches would want it on the 30.”

It’s also not surprising that while coaches might support getting rid of kickoffs, players likely wouldn’t, even if the move is aimed at their safety. As the Dogs’ Christian Robinson said Tuesday, “You don’t just want to line up and play. That first kickoff when the crowd is going wild, that’s part of the game. If you eliminate that, you eliminate part of the game.”

As the Bulldogs Blog reported, even Richt admitted, “It is an exciting play. It’s probably gonna be a bigger story than it should be. I don’t think it’s gonna happen anytime soon, I don’t. It’d be a major, major rule change, no doubt.”

On the surface, you’d think this idea would go about as far as a squib kick. But Rogers Redding, the infamous former Southeastern Conference coordinator of officials and current national coordinator for officiating, told the Birmingham News recently the proposal will be discussed next year by the NCAA Football Rules Committee. “I think it certainly makes sense to explore it,” Redding said. “Player safety is first and foremost on the agenda of the rules committee. I have no doubt this will come to the committee and will get some serious consideration, if for no other reason than it’s intriguing.”

OK, most fans are in favor of emphasizing player safety, but at what point do you start compromising the game beyond repair? And can you really imagine Georgia football without the likes of Gene Washington, Scott Woerner and Lindsay Scott racing down the field returning kickoffs?

Not forgetting, of course, the Dogs’ current kickoff return threat, Brandon Boykin, who is tied for the SEC record, having raced back four kicks for touchdowns in his career. And three of those returns covered the entire 100 yards of the field, the most recent last year at Kentucky.

Do we really want to eliminate that kind of thrill from college football?

That’s not intriguing. That’s crazy.

QUOTABLE DAWG

Christian Robinson at the Macon Pigskin Preview on Georgia’s offseason workouts this year: “We’re working more efficiently right now and we have a mindset. We’re not just lifting weights. We’re lifting weights to win a game on Saturday.” I know we hear that sort of quote every offseason, but I’m hoping this time it more accurately reflects what we’ll actually see on the field come fall.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

195 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

June 15th, 2011
10:35 am

SBC Pastor

June 15th, 2011
10:47 am

I understand the argument for taking the kickoff out, but I would hate to see it go as it would remove something fundamental from the game. Having a kickoff allows one team to really set the tone for the rest of the game.

DawgInDFW

June 15th, 2011
10:49 am

Disagree. This would not compromise the game. Kickoffs are thrilling, yes, and can make for big swings in the game when one team executes and the other does not. But really, the glory of the game is in the trench battle, the long bomb, the broken-tackle run for 30 yards to keep a drive alive. Kickoffs comprise so little of the actual game, and they expose players to too many injuries, life-altering, season-ending and even just the regular run-of-the-mill game-missing type. In five or ten years, none of us will miss it because the core of the game will still be just as exciting.

TGT

June 15th, 2011
10:53 am

I think eliminating kickoffs would be akin to not allowing baseball players to steal or slide. Is it really more likely for a player to get injured during a kickoff? Football is a dangerous sport no doubt, but this idea seems farfetched.

Newman

June 15th, 2011
10:54 am

More wussification of America.

lanier

June 15th, 2011
10:56 am

a punt would work just as well as a ko provided the punt rules remained the same. i can see this happening

pirtdawg

June 15th, 2011
10:57 am

This is a tough one for me cause I am all for player safety. However it’s hard to imagine not hearing the entire crowd yell GO DAWGS at the kickoff.

Frank Lane

June 15th, 2011
10:58 am

NO WAY. Kickoffs are part of game. Always have been. Cannot support elimination. Might as well outlaw crossing patterns for receivers.

hornblowermg

June 15th, 2011
10:59 am

the kickoff return is the most exciting play in football. enough said.

schmeckdawg

June 15th, 2011
11:01 am

Getting rid of kickoffs, give me a break. I was the wedge breaker when I played in college and have 5 bulging discs in my neck because of it and I wouldn’t change a thing! Why don’t college football and the NFL just play flag football!!

Jasper Fraaaanks

June 15th, 2011
11:01 am

80 more days!

dan

June 15th, 2011
11:01 am

I think they already have football leagues that don’t feature kickoffs..or blocking…or tackling. It’s called FLAG FOOTBALL! Getting rid of kickoffs?? Jeez …gimme a break… bunch of freakin cry babies! And the wussification of the american male continues.

kevin

June 15th, 2011
11:02 am

Horrible idea. While I fully understand wanting to keep players safe, kickoffs are a key component to the game. Football is not football without them. In the end, football is a dangerous sport and injuries happen–not just on kickoffs. Players assume the risk when they suit up. It’s one of the reasons they love to play and and one of the reasons we admire their skill in doing so.

Sam

June 15th, 2011
11:04 am

Where’s the statistical significance that kickoffs are more dangerous than blind-side QB sacks, receivers being hit over the middle, and countless other football actions. What’s wrong with this country? Progressives are just killing it.

JBD

June 15th, 2011
11:05 am

This is nonsense! No kickoffs?! I understand the concern. Really, I do. But aren’t most of the injuries the result of poor form during the tackles. It makes more sense to implement a required training/class for people involved in special teams.

It’s going to be hard to refer to this sport as “football” if the rules keep changing. Also think of the transition from college to the NFL if kickoffs were removed from CFB. Most rookies start their careers on the special team units.

kevin

June 15th, 2011
11:06 am

Sam,

I agree with your points regarding QB sacks, receivers going over the middle, etc. Though, your bit about country and progressives?

W. Mark Whitlock

June 15th, 2011
11:08 am

There’s a compelling human interest story at the kick off of this argument, but it feels to me like the same arguments that are driving us to remove classic playground equipment and games from our children’s lives. I’m tired of mediocrity and the destruction of tradition for the sake of so-called safety. Our children can’t play outside anymore unless supervised by six adults in an organized activity for which parents pay $45 per month.

I read an article about how US raised baseball pitchers are far more prone to their foreign counterparts (and those of past generations) because casual stickball and sandlot games are gone from our neighborhoods.

Why don’t we put all our players in inflatable Sumo wrestler suits and slow the game down too?

Each decision made in a vacuum will be proven reasonable and logical. Let’s move back a distance and make some more seminal decisions.

Rex

June 15th, 2011
11:09 am

I would hate to see it go, but I see the point.It would make the game safer which is always the objective.

W. Mark Whitlock

June 15th, 2011
11:09 am

The word “injuries” is missing from my comment. “US raised pitchers are far more prone to injuries than…”

DawginLex

June 15th, 2011
11:10 am

Can’t agree with coach on this one.

Kickoffs are a great part of the game.

DawgFan

June 15th, 2011
11:10 am

“Player safety is first and foremost on the agenda of the rules committee.”
____

We’re not far from having the collegiate flag-football. That, or start wrapping the players in pillopws and bubble-wrap and playing on a field of mattresses.

fss

June 15th, 2011
11:12 am

i think it’s a good idea.

for those on the other side, i submit that if you think eliminating kick-offs is “wussifying” the game, you need to argue for players to remove their pads (especially those pesky helmets). the equipment can’t protect 200-350 lbs human beings running into each other at top speed, but they make them think they can.

teddy roosevelt eliminated the flying wedge play, and football was better for it, even though your great grand dads whined just like you.

staffordinfection

June 15th, 2011
11:13 am

It is a game. Not an obligation. Every time you suit up you implicitly agree to take on a significant level of risk. Without the kickoff it is not football. Anyone who says otherwise does not truly appreciate the game.

staffordinfection

June 15th, 2011
11:15 am

fss. were you alive at the turn of the 20th century. give me a break. you have obviously never played ball.

Field Goal Jesus

June 15th, 2011
11:17 am

This just proves Richt must go. Last year he shelved two a days. The year before he whined for not having an indoor practice facility because of the weather. Richt is a softee and rather take his players swimming or cosmic bowling. He will never win the big prize at UGA.

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staffordinfection

June 15th, 2011
11:23 am

Mark Richt presided over the best initial decade of any georgia coach. Dont take you anger out on the dawgs notre dumb fan.

Dirty Dawg

June 15th, 2011
11:27 am

I’m sorry, but my memories of Washington, Woerner and Scott have nothing whatsoever to do with kickoff returns. Fact is college football has ‘evolved’ over the past hundred or so years for the most part to ensure that we weren’t injuring and killing our kids all in the name of fan excitement…I mean didn’t we learn anything from the Christian’s and the Lions, or gladiators fighting to the death? The NCAA was formed originally to ’save’ college football from itself and has been making rules changes ever since when it seemed called for…this is exactly one of those times. Whether or not they do it, who knows, but if we have enough top players going down, or in wheel-chairs, I suspect they’ll make the change. Seems to me we lost Boss Bailey on kickoff coverage in an opening game with Georgia Southern a few years back…how exciting was that?

macrotech

June 15th, 2011
11:30 am

Why not just go to a flag football concept…but, THEN you’re going to have to eliminate acute cuts…THEY could lead to rolled ankles! In fact….let’s just turn to playing these games out on xbox…but, THEN you could get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! OR…we could just except the fact that football is a violent game played by really fast big guys…get rid of the BCS and create a playoff…THAT’S where their attention needs to be.

RabidDawgFan

June 15th, 2011
11:31 am

Christian Robinson sure is doing a lot of talking. If he isn’t our leading tackler this season then he’s not doing his job. I like him, but he’s not an impact player in my mind. He’s good, don’t get me wrong; but how many interceptions did he have last season? How many forced fumbles? How many sacks? He’s a great leader but let’s see some more play making Christian.

As far as kickoffs, keep them. These boys knew what they were in for when they signed up to play football. Stop being wussies and go out there and smash somebody in the face. Boykin will return about 3 kickoffs for touchdowns this season. I betcha.

GOOOOOOOOOO DAWGS! SIC’EM!!!! WOOF WOOF! WOOF!

Wimp Dawg

June 15th, 2011
11:31 am

I guess Richt would advocate limited contact in college football in opting for college flag football. I suspect later on he would agree for college football be done away altogether as many playgrounds have done away with dodgeball.

GTBob

June 15th, 2011
11:33 am

I have to agree with Richt and Schiano. A kickoff is basically two groups of testosterone filled heat seeking missles aimed directly at each other. I can’t believe some are comparing it to a QB getting sacked. It should at the very least be modified in some way.

staffordinfection

June 15th, 2011
11:33 am

so . . . let me get this straight. potential pro athletes play 3-4 years at a sport that is not truly football. the you expect them to just pick back up the tenacity necessary for going head down all out on a kick off in the nfl. You people are missing the point. Injury comes with accepted risk. I assure you that any player will tell you that they don’t mind.

staffordinfection

June 15th, 2011
11:36 am

rabiddawg, do you need a hug? he played pretty well last season. i can only assume he will be even better this year.

SSIgator

June 15th, 2011
11:37 am

“Richt noted that kickoff plays are violent”

Really coach? I am in awe. This is truly insightful. UGA is really getting their $3,000,000 worth with observations like that. You must have discovered that when you started studying “cutting edge football” in January. If you keep reading further in your book you will discover that a football is not round.

Lincolnton Dawg

June 15th, 2011
11:38 am

Can we get a ratio over the last 50 years or so of kickoffs verses kickoffs containing a season or career ending injury??

Yeah.

Keep the kickoffs. Dumb argument.

DawginLex

June 15th, 2011
11:39 am

Christian Robinson,Aaron Murray, Orson charles and Ray Drew are the new leaders on this team. They all have a great work ethic and lead by example. Robinson will fill Houston’s shoes quite nicely and also won’t throw his teammates under the bus or take plays off.

It is a breath of fresh air compared to Mettenberger, Ealey, Houston and Gray- the all about me, why don’t I play more choir boys.

frannie mae

June 15th, 2011
11:41 am

This just shows that UGA is in BIG BIG trouble with Mark Richt.

DawginLex

June 15th, 2011
11:41 am

ssigator,

You really need to get a hobby, job, girlfriend or something.

Man you obsess about UGA 24/7.

Did Richt steal your girlfriend? Was Kathryn your childhood sweetheart?

EW

June 15th, 2011
11:41 am

Give them flags and eliminate tackling too. That’s way too dangerous.

DawginLex

June 15th, 2011
11:42 am

frannie mae

June 15th, 2011
11:41 am
This just shows that UGA is in BIG BIG trouble with Mark Richt.

*******************************************************

Really? How? Enlighten us oh GREAT TROLL.

Rugby is a NCAA sport

June 15th, 2011
11:43 am

Have you seen Rugby? Football with NO pads. They may not have a kickoff but damn they are hitting each other with no pads or helmets! We are talking about kickoffs? I agree, this is just more wussification of America. All the know-it-all liberals! Open up Cuba for gods sake if you want somehting to do so I can have some legal Cuban Cigars and Rum!

No King

June 15th, 2011
11:43 am

Some want to eliminate running into the catcher at home plate … and now eliminate kickoffs in football. Where do you think the name of the damn sport came from? In another generation, we won’t have tackling. Flag football here we come.

Phildo

June 15th, 2011
11:43 am

What’s next? Flagball? I agree with Newman: Wussification, pure and simple. If anybody in Australia, where warfare is legal in both Australian Rules Football and Rugby, both of which use no equipment, except maybe a few non-face masked headgear, is reading this blog they’ve got to be LAO about this sissification.

beamer ball

June 15th, 2011
11:44 am

You win the big games with defense and special teams. Mark Rcht is a big oaf on this idea.

AltamahaDawg

June 15th, 2011
11:50 am

Yea, not going to change that fundamental part of the game. But the idea of a punting it off would have its own legacy of return runs. If that’s how it had always been done, everyone would say that kicking it off would be boring or crazy.
And from a safety standpoint, obviously the idea of going TO a kickoff would never even be proposed.

The idea of a 4th and 15 opportunity is very intriguing. You talk about changing the dynamics of getting back into the game in the final minutes. I’m guessing the success rate of that conversion is far greater than an onside kick. That would lead to a lot more exciting finishes.

Dr. Don

June 15th, 2011
11:50 am

What will they think of next? Eliminate the center jump from basketball? Wait, they did that a century or two back. Changed the game and for the better.

Changed baseball from throwing a ball to hit the runner to get him out to throwing to a base. Baseball turned out all right.

People will adapt to whatever changes are made, whether they like them or not. 30 years from now college football will still be a big deal – even if there are no kick-offs. Besides, I like a good punt return as much as the next guy.

Seeer

June 15th, 2011
11:52 am

While we are at it let’s just go back to leather helmets and smaller pads. This will make kickoffs safer and prevent players from using their headgear as a weapon. Oh yea and lets do away with the 2 point conversion also…just another play where a player can be injured! Yea, and lets do away with….

sprouse27

June 15th, 2011
11:52 am

No surprise that’s CMR’s opinion. He really should be preaching somewhere, and not a head coach at what used to be a major football school.

waitnsee

June 15th, 2011
11:54 am

The game will go on w/o KO’s.