All those who were disappointed Alabama defensive end Quinton Dial wasn’t punished for his cheap-shot hit to the helmet of Aaron Murray in last season’s SEC Championship Game may take a measure of satisfaction from the fact that the NCAA rule on such plays has been toughened considerably.
As Tony Barnhart details in a column for CBSSports.com, henceforth a quarterback who has thrown an interception will be considered a defenseless player and any shot above the shoulders will result in a penalty and a possible ejection.
Murray’s name isn’t attached to the new rule, but it might as well be.
Previously, targeting the head of a defenseless player with the crown of a helmet was supposed to result in a 15-yard penalty. Dial, who argued it was a clean hit, didn’t even get that after ramming Murray. The ruling on the field was that once he’d thrown the interception, Murray became a defender — though SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw later said unnecessary roughness should have been called.
The old rule also included the possibility of suspension after the game tape had been reviewed by the SEC office, but no such action was taken in the case of Dial’s hit on Murray.
However, this coming season, if the official feels the defender was intentionally targeting above the shoulders with his helmet, the offending player can be immediately ejected from the game.
If he’s thrown out in the first half, he must sit out the rest of the game. If the ejection comes in the second half, he also must sit out the first half of the next game. The official monitoring the replay can overturn the call.
In addition to a quarterback after a turnover, the definition of a defenseless player has been broadened to include, among others, a player who is throwing or has just thrown a pass; a receiver attempting to catch a pass or who has just caught one but hasn’t had time to protect himself; a returner attempting to catch or recover a kick; a player who receives a blind-side block; a ball carrier in the grasp of an opponent whose forward progress has been stopped; and a kicker in the act of kicking or just after a kick.
With all the attention being given to concussions and their possible aftermath in the NFL, it was inevitable that the college game would tighten up this aspect of its rule book. Yes, it’s a contact sport, but plays like Dial’s unnecessary blow to Murray add nothing to the game and are, in fact, quite dangerous.
Count me among those definitely in favor of this rule change.
Of course, the matter of intent still will be a judgement call. And there’s always the possibility (particularly in the SEC, where you have the likes of Penn Wagers) that you’ll get an official whose enforcement of the rule is questionable.
But at least this should cause some defenders to think twice before hammering a defenseless player if it means they might lose playing time.
Speaking of NCAA rule changes, UGA’s Greg McGarity must be pleased that, as a result of 75 schools asking for an override, the controversial new rule allowing unlimited texting and calling of recruits has been tabled for now and will be reconsidered by the Division 1 Board of Directors in May.
The board, which earlier had suspended a rule deregulating who can perform recruiting tasks and another lifting restrictions on what recruiting materials can be sent to prospects, also will reconsider a new rule prohibiting coaches from scouting future opponents in person unless they are participating in the same tournament or a doubleheader event at the same site. (You can read all about it at the NCAA website.)
If the suspension of the rule on recruiting personnel stands, you’ve got to wonder what duties Nick Saban and other coaches are going to come up with for all those non-coaching recruiting staffers they’ve hired lately. Knowing Saban’s creativity in envelope-pushing, though, I have a feeling he already has a plan. Meanwhile, Michael Carvell reports on how non-coaching personnel can be used — and apparently already are being used in some cases — under existing rules.
INDOOR FIELD DEBATE REOPENED … BY MURRAY
Bulldogs senior QB Murray touched on a hot-button issue with a lot of UGA fans Thursday when he tweeted: “About that time UGA gets an indoor facility. Lets get this trending #UGAindoor.”
“I don’t know where that came from,” Mark Richt told the Macon Telegraph’s Seth Emerson when asked about Murray’s tweets. “But football is an outdoor sport. We don’t wanna get too soft around here.”
Where it came from, was Murray being impressed by the indoor facility at Oklahoma, where he went for quarterback coaching over spring break.
Richt went on to concede that when he first came to Georgia a full-size indoor practice facility (as opposed to the much more limited 20-yard facility UGA currently has) was planned, “but there were so many other things that needed to get done before that, we were gonna spend money on other things that were more important.”
Basically, a few years ago Richt opted for a complete renovation of the Butts-Mehre training facility rather than have the indoor field.
Richt told the Telegraph he’d “have have loved to have one,” but “if we were gonna have one I wanted it to be here (at the main practice field). If it was gonna be a mile or two miles away, beyond walking distance away, I didn’t wanna do it. Because one of the benefits of having it is being able to start practice, and if lightning strikes nearby, if it’s not safe, you roll right in and you continue practice and all that. But if you’ve got to stop, load up a bus, take it down there, or have a bunch of buses sitting there waiting just in case and all that, it just wasn’t gonna be worth it to us.”
And as Emerson points out, in order to have a full-size indoor facility at the Dogs’ practice complex, Richt would have to give up one of the outdoor practice fields he has now, probably the one closest to Butts-Mehre.
Still, fans (and now his quarterback) keep bringing an indoor facility up.
As I wrote here three weeks ago, I’m not sure an indoor practice facility is the most important issue for Georgia’s program. I believe it was the right call when Richt went for the renovated and expanded training facility instead. Yes, many schools have indoor practice fields, but not all major programs think it’s necessary. Florida doesn’t.
What do you think? Is Richt right in thinking this is something his program can do without? Or should he try to get the athletic department to turn loose some of those surplus funds for an indoor field?
UPDATE: The AJC’s Chip Towers has posted a report on the indoor practice facility debate.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg