Archive for the ‘Rules’ Category

NCAA Rule Changes

January 12, 2007


The American Football Coaches Association recently held its annual convention in San Antonio, and one of the more notable topics was a series of NCAA rule changes. Most of these rule changes govern recruiting and prospect evaluation.

First, NCAA bylaw 13.1.8.9.4 says institutional staff members shall not attend any scholastic or non-scholastic activities devoted to agility, flexibility, speed or strength tests for prospective student athletes conducted at any location at any time.

In other words, universities will no longer be able to test prospective student athletes at their summer camps. In the past these camps have allowed coaches to line up prospects and test them in the 40-yard dash, vertical leap, shuttle, bench press and other agility drills. Testing of this sort allows for a direct comparison of prospective recruits and decreases a coach’s reliance on game tapes. This type of testing has been a bastion of these camps for several years and has also been a key component of the Nebraska coaching staff’s recruiting efforts. The early reaction to this change from coaches has not been positive and it will be interesting to see how they adjust.

Another key issue that is being examined is text messaging. Currently there are no rules governing the use of text messaging by coaches. However, you had to know the reevaluation of this rule was coming, as the NCAA prefers limits to be placed on all types of contacts. One of the interesting variables related to this rule, however, is that these text messages can actually wind up affecting a student athlete financially. If an athlete has a monthly service contract allowing only a limited number of texts, a flurry of messages from over-zealous coaches could result in overage charges. I suppose a change in this rule might also go along way toward preventing an outbreak of “Blackberry Thumb” among coaching staffs.

According to Rivals.com:

“The NCAA is looking at three different options, one of which was just shot down at the NCAA convention. The three options are NCAA Proposal No. 2006-40, Proposal No. 2006-41 and the status quo.

Proposal No. 2006-40 – which was proposed by The Ivy Group – would eliminate text messaging to prospects and specifies that electronically transmitted correspondence sent to a prospective student-athlete is limited to electronic mail and facsimiles.
Proposal No. 2006-41 was considered to be a middle-of-the-road solution, and it would have reduced communication via text messaging from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The times would be based upon the location where the prospect resides. However, the NCAA Management Council earlier this week defeated this proposal.

That leaves either the status quo – where there are no rules at all – or Proposal No. 2006-40 on the table for consideration. Kerin said the Management Council could be leaning toward elimination. So at this point, Proposal No. 2006-40 could eventually pass and then be in place on Aug. 1. If it doesn’t pass, nothing will happen and everything will remain as is.”


Another rule change that is already in place for the 2007 season is the override of Proposal No. 2005-54, which allowed student-athletes who received their undergraduate degree to transfer to another institution for graduate school and be immediately eligible for financial aid, practice and competition, no matter the student-athletes’ prior transfer history. According to NCAA research fewer than 1 percent of eligible student-athletes took advantage of this rule. One athlete who used this rule to great benefit was Florida DB Ryan Smith, who graduated early from Utah and then enrolled at Florida for graduate studies. Smith was named first-team all-SEC (AP) and third-team all-America (Rivals.com) after intercepting eight passes and recording 52 tackles, seven pass break-ups and two blocked kicks. Oh, and he also won a national title.

Next up appears to be a reexamination of the dreaded 3-2-5-e. A hot-button issue all season, the controversial clock rule was also a major topic at the AFCA convention. As the meetings completed the AFCA forwarded its clock-rule recommendations to the Football Rules Committee. Any changes will then be made by the by the Football Rules Committee, which convenes in February in Albuquerque, N.M. At least one important figure believes alterations to 3-2-5-e are in the offing. “My educated guess would be there would be a change,” said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.

Thank God for that.

Rule 3-2-5-e, I wish I could quit you!

September 7, 2006

The early analysis is in and it is clear that rule 3-2-5-e is having an effect on college football games. In case you are still unclear, the official wording of rule 3-2-5-e is:

Rule 3-2-5-e, When Clock Starts
Change: When Team B is awarded a first down, the clock will be stopped and will start on the ready for play signal.

Rationale: By starting the clock, the committee estimates it will shorten the game by about five minutes, according to studies by several Division I-A conferences.

After examining the available data, the amazing folks at cfbstats.com provided an update at the Wizard of Odds which looks like this:

…………………#Plays…….#Games…….#Plays/Game
2005 Total……..121044……718…………168.58
2005 Week 1……..8664……..52…………166.61
2006 Week 1…….10368…….69………….150.26

In other words, roughly 18 plays per game are being lost to the new rule. Oklahoma was one team that experienced a noticeable difference in their season opener. OU and UAB combined for just 110 offensive plays, the fewest in 50 years for an OU game. The previous low during that span was 112 for the 1960 OU-Colorado and the 1962 OU-Missouri games. The Sooners ran just 53 plays against the Blazers.

So what has been the impact of rule 3-2-5-e on the Huskers? Thus far it appears to have had little effect. In the opener against Louisiana Tech, Nebraska ran 84 plays and enjoyed 13 offensive drives. By comparison the Huskers averaged just 72 plays per game in 2005. One possible explanation for the increase is the attention paid to improving the team’s tempo and pace during the Fall camp. These efforts were mentioned several times in media reports and may represent the staff’s attempts at addressing this rule change. Interestingly Louisiana Tech also had 13 offensive drives, but managed just 53 plays during the opener. This means that NU and Tech combined for 137 plays which is 30 fewer than the average number of plays per game in 2005 and also lower than the aggregate average for week one of 2006.

Although Nebraska seemingly escaped the negative impact of rule 3-2-5-e in game one, Nicholls State may present a unique twist to these challenges. The Colonels triple-option attack is predicated on controlling the ball and dominating the time of possession. In his Tuesday press conference Coach Callahan addressed these issues.

“This is a team that is totally committed to running the football. They are committed to their attack and their style. They rushed the football for over 364 yards per game last year, averaging over five yards per rush. If you look at them, they validate it on film. What they try to do is secure 1st-and-10, and they go about that in a very simplistic manner. If they get that, they are on schedule as far as down-and-distance is concerned.

“Our concern is that they’ll try to limit our possessions, try to chew up clock and they’ll also try to go for it on fourth down. If you look at their attempts a year ago on fourth down, they went for it quite a bit of the time. They average about three fourth-down attempts a game. So this is a team where they try to limit you to eight possessions a game, and that’s two per quarter for the offense, and so we’re going to have to do a great job to stay disciplined, play assignment football on the defensive side of the ball and take advantage of every opportunity we can when we do get our offensive possession.”

In 2005 Nicholls State averaged 69.4 plays per game while limiting their opponents to fewer than 65 plays per game. This means that the average Nicholls State game in 2005 resulted in just 135 plays, or 33 fewer than the 2005 average. In their 2006 opener Nicholls State gained 261 yards on just 51 plays. 229 of those yards came on the ground and the Colonels finished with a time of possession of 32:32.

Southern Arkansas managed just 11 possessions in the game. This averages out to 2.75 posessions per quarter or just above the Colonels goal of limiting teams to two per period. Although Southern Arkansas ran 67 plays (16 more than Nicholls State), they had no drive lasting longer than 7 plays until 5 minutes into the second half. In addition, 28 of SAU’s plays came during two drives during the third quarter when the outcome of the game was already decided.

All of this could mean that Husker fans will begin to notice the consequences of rule 3-2-5-e on Saturday. Physically Nicholls State is no match for Nebraska. In addition, I trust our coaches’ ability to prepare the defense for the option and to make the necessary adjustments during the game. However, I feel we could see a sluggish type of game reminiscent of OU-UAB. If the Colonels can string together a few first downs, their deliberate style of play will impact the number of drives the Huskers enjoy. The end result is that NU must make the most of each of their offensive possessions in order to ensure an acceptable margin of victory over this Division IAA foe.

NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse

August 9, 2006

“The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.” So said, Eugene McCarthy. You might want to keep that quote in mind as you read this post.

This is the time of year that most freshmen hit the field as their first fall camp begins. Many athletes, however, have their freshman campaign delayed by the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. Currently Nebraska is awaiting the arrival of Ricky Thenarse who was completing a summer class and will then need to be cleared by this organization. At last check USC was also anxiously awaiting the clearance of Vidal Hazelton and Jamere Holland. So just what is the Eligibility Clearinghouse and what causes these seemingly inevitable delays?

The NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse is the governing organization that officially certifies student -athletes as academically eligible to compete in NCAA Division I or Division II athletics. The Clearinghouse is not the NCAA per se, but is instead, an organization that performs academic evaluations for the NCAA. This body acts as the central “clearinghouse” of information for all colleges to verify that the student athlete meets the minimum set academic standards of participation.

Athletes are encouraged to register with the Clearinghouse at the end of their junior year of high school. To register students simply obtain an NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse application from their high school or guidance counselor. The athlete then completes the student-release form, which authorizes the high school to send his or her academic records to the Clearinghouse. The registration form and records are then sent to the Clearinghouse along with a $30 registration fee.

During the summer before the athlete’s senior year, the Clearinghouse provides them with an evaluation of their academic record. This evaluation includes information regarding what high school coursework they still need to take in order to become certified as eligible to play NCAA Division I or Division II athletics. The athletes are to then use this evaluation to schedule courses during for their senior year. Once the athlete graduates a final copy of their transcript must also be sent to the Clearinghouse to confirm their graduation and to continue the evaluation process.

The clearance process seems fairly straightforward on paper, however, as many athletes can attest; it can be anything but that in practice. As this New York Times piece relates, the problems are numerous.

“The problem lies in the failure of the NCAA, one of the richest nonprofit organizations in the nation, to evaluate academic eligibility for freshman athletes in a timely manner. From an inadequate number of telephones to answer the calls of parents, students and high schools, to its rigid policy not to inform a student until the end of his or her senior year what credits are needed for eligibility and scholarships, the NCAA’s conduct has been arbitrary and shameful, say lawyers for those who have turned to the courts.”

No one seems to benefit from waiting for a student’s grades for their entire senior year to be submitted, before informing them of eligibility problems. By then it is too late for the athlete and for the school, which can’t always determine how the Clearinghouse will rule. If an athlete is not cleared, he may not appeal his case directly and it is up to his university to do so. This too, is often not a timely process. The N.Y. Times article discusses the case of Damon Phillips, a 6-foot 7-inch basketball player from Brooklyn, who after the NCAA objected to a preliminary injunction permitting him to play, ultimately missed two-thirds of his freshman season at Fairfield.

The process is also slowed simply by the numbers involved. Each of the 24,000 U.S. high schools has their own curriculum and the Clearinghouse is often too far removed from these schools to make accurate assessments. As Daniel Sagaran, Phillips’s lawyer, stated:

“The staff liaisons of the subcommittee consist of two persons of extremely limited experience neither of whom had any training in high school teaching or course accreditation. Their actual review was woeful. No one called the school, learned about the course, determined whether it met the core course definition.”

In addition, the Clearinghouse is likely under-staffed to deal with the quantity of cases they handle. The size of the organization ranges from 25 full-time evaluators up to 100 during the summer crunch time. The number of incoming freshman they have to deal with is around 130,000, and that figure was from 1996. Cases also become increasingly complicated if students attend more than one high school, or if the student must complete summer school before his transcript is finalized.

The Clearinghouse guidelines were put into place to protect the integrity of intercollegiate athletics and the NCAA says it needs the power to evaluate courses properly and to achieve uniform eligibility standards among the nation’s colleges. But just how should that power be wielded and shouldn’t it be regulated in some manner?

“The NCAA is rigid with respect to its rules,” said Gary Roberts, professor of sport and law at Tulane University. “With every coach trying to get someone in, they have a difficult job to do. It is not surprising that it is almost a police-state type of organization.”

Surprising? No, but that is of little consolation to the players, coaches, and schools affected by the rulings. Oh and don’t forget the fans. Won’t someone please think of the fans?