This week the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel has approved three rule changes for college football. Two go into effect this season and the new taunting rule starts in 2011.
The first rule change has to do with wedge blocking on kickoffs. The new rule says that when the team receiving a kickoff has more than two players standing within two yards of one another, shoulder to shoulder, it will be assessed a 15-yard penalty -- even if there is no contact between the teams. This one is pretty cut and dry and coaches should be able to make these changes on special teams.
The second rule has to do with the banning of personal messages on a player's eye black. This started with Reggie Bush writing 619 on his eye black as a nod to his hometown of San Diego and continued with Tim Tebow writing biblical verses on his eye black.
I really do not have a problem with this rule either because I personally do not care what statement you have to make on your eye black anyway, but if you just ban phrases that might be deemed offensive, that can open up a big can of worms. So it is probably best just to ban it all. I actually wanted to see someone on defense against Tebow with 666 on his eye black.
Now the rule that has most people talking is the new taunting rule. Starting in 2011, if a player is penalized for taunting an opponent on his way to a touchdown that play will be nullified. Currently, that would be a deal-ball foul and assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
But the new rule will make it a live-ball foul, meaning if a player holds the ball out in a taunting manner as he's crossing the goal line, does some type of somersault heading into the end zone or high steps his way into the end zone, the touchdown will be called back and the penalty will be assessed from the spot of the foul.
I do not like this rule change at all. To me it is way to subjective. For example, say a Tennessee player is streaking towards the end zone late in the fourth quarter for the go ahead touchdown against Florida. A Gator dives at his legs to try and trip him up and he high steps out of it and high steps the last five yards into the end zone. Is that taunting?
I do not want to be that official who throws that flag. You can just hear the outcry when the first one is thrown in the SEC. I have said this many times, one day a referee will get assaulted or even killed by fans for making a subjective call like that in a big game. I do not want that to happen, but if you put this rules into effect something bad will happen.
One thing to remember is that excessive celebration penalties won't fall into this category. So if a player is called for dancing in the end zone with teammates, that by rule is still a dead-ball foul and will be assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
This is also very subjective as well, just ask A.J Green and the Georgia Bulldogs.