Kickoffs from 30-yard line could create more returns, injuries for the NCAA

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – NCAA officials expect more excitement – and perhaps more injuries – as kickoffs move back to the 30-yard line for this college football season.

The NCAA rules oversight panel’s decision in March to push the kickoff back from the 35-yard line to the NFL’s starting point was one of several offseason changes designed to keep the game moving and the energy level high.

Purdue coach Joe Tiller has been among the critics of moving the kickoff. He says it’s the most violent play in football, and the few extra returns won’t be worth it if injuries, such as concussions, increase.

“So now they’re moving back 5 yards so we can create more g-forces as these kids are running into each other,” he said. “I’m not in favor of moving it back 5 yards. I think about the health and safety of the players, first and foremost.

“It’s probably going to add a few more injuries that we didn’t have in the past. And maybe a few more kicks will be returned.”

Ron Courson, head trainer at Georgia and a member of the National Athletic Trainers association, said the NCAA will keep track of injuries and make changes in the future if necessary.

“We do know that you do have a tendency to get more injuries on a special teams play where you have more high-impact, open-field running,” he said. “However, I think we need to reserve judgment until we have data.”

Dave Parry, national coordinator of NCAA football officiating, said he expects the results to be positive.

“It will create a little more excitement, and we’ll get a little more movement of the ball,” he said. “We do believe it will eliminate some touchbacks. This will be pleasing to the fans.”

Other rule changes this year were geared toward adding plays to the game that were eliminated by rule changes the previous year. The clock now will stop on possession changes and won’t start on kickoffs until the receiving team touches the ball.

Some coaches complained the 2006 changes, which resulted in about 14 fewer plays per game in Division I-A, had altered the game too much. Others said it prevented teams from rallying late in games.

In February, the football rules committee recommended going back to the old system. After meeting with the American Football Coaches Association in March, the oversight panel agreed.

Last year’s rule changes reduced game times by an average of about 14 minutes, and some of that progress is expected to be lost with the newest tweaks. But other changes were made to help the NCAA reach its goal of three-hour 15-minute games.

After media timeouts during televised games, teams will have less time to run plays. Previously, teams had a 25-second play clock; now it will be 15 seconds.

NCAA officials expect the kickoff returns to make the game last a bit longer, but say they could cut into dead periods and make the game more enjoyable.

“We’re going to give it a try and see how it goes,” Parry said. “I think most people are willing to take a good look at it, and let’s give it a chance.”