Sprints Wants to Get Rid of the Kickoff, Keep Football // 07.30.12

There are a lot of reasons to do away with the kickoff. Ask Rutgers.

31 Days Until SEC Football

End the kickoff
Expect to hear a lot over the next few weeks about the changes that are being made to the rules for kickoffs that are meant to reduce injuries. Expect also to hear a lot about the unintended consequences of the changes to those rules.

The basic outline of the rule is this: In addition to moving the kickoff to the 35-yard line, to make it more likely that the ball will go into the opponent's end zone, a touchback will put the ball at the 25-yard line instead of the 20, to try to make teams more willing to accept a touchback. Except the rules people are already admitting that it might not work that way.

"One view was the receiving team will now be a little quicker to say, 'I'll just take a knee and take it to the 25,'" said Steve Shaw, head of SEC officials. "But in talking to some of the special teams coaches in the spring, those that have really good kickers and good coverage will be tempted now to sky kick it and see if they can pin them in. The dynamics of how those rules come together will be intriguing to watch."

Part of the problem here is that any change that incentivizes the receiving team to take a touchback disincentivizes the kicking team to kick a touchback, and vise versa. The only way to truly reduce the injuries that kickoffs can cause is to go the route Greg Schiano has suggested and do away with the kickoff altogether, replacing it with a fourth-and-15 or so.

Which is going to be anathema to some folks, I know. The kickoff can be one of the most exciting plays in football, particularly when there's a big return or a well executed on-sides kick (which will also become more difficult under the new rules).

But the safety issues that are emerging in football aren't going to go away any time soon. And it's not like football hasn't done something similar before. For the first few decades of its existence, college football actually had a rule against the forward pass, instead encouraging plays that were basically huge masses of players slamming into one another in an effort to move the ball. As you can imagine, a lot of people got severely injured and several died.

So college football decided to try to spread out the game, at first by introducing the forward pass on a limited basis and then by making it an effective way of moving the ball down the field. The change to the game was so fundamental that Walter Camp, "the father of football," essentially walked away from the sport because of it. But everyone except B1G coaches now recognizes that the forward pass is an exciting and even essential part of college football.

The same would come from doing away with the kickoff. The fact of the matter is this: If we don't make this sport safer, then there will be a public outcry in five or 10 years to ban football, and it's going to be more than just the likes of Malcolm Gladwell pushing for it. Getting rid of the kickoff won't do away with concussions, but it will get rid of the most likely source of serious brain trauma and the spinal injuries that were at the core of Schiano's concerns, just as the forward pass and the effort to spread out the offense did away with the most likely source of death around the turn of the century.

Sure, I like the kickoff return, and I'll be sad to see if go if the sport decides to go in that direction. But I also like watching the other 100 plays in a football game, and it would be a tragedy to lose the sport because of a play that's exciting maybe once a game.

Because it wouldn't be an LSU football season without an inexplicable QB decision
LSU is getting into the Penn State recruiting battle, trying to get quarterback Rob Bolden to come to Baton Rouge. No, there aren't two Rob Boldens playing quarterback for Penn State. Yes, it is that Rob Bolden that LSU is trying to recruit. No, I don't understand it, either.

At least they're doing something about it
I've never quite understood why the meanderings of Stewart Mandel and his absurd ranking system for college football teams upsets Georgia fans so much -- but it does. And so to answer Mandel's ridiculous way of ranking the teams -- how many people in Montana would recognize a given teams helmet -- a couple of otherwise generally sensible Georgia bloggers are actually sending a Georgia helmet up to Montana.

Yes, this is just another sign that football season needs to start as quickly as possible. And they already have a volunteer.

What now?
Michael Dyer might be the first running back ever to leave two teams because of a violation of team rules -- he left Auburn quasi-voluntarily after Gene Chizik suspended and has now been dismissed at Arkansas State. Remember, Terry Bowden is at Akron now, which is a little bit longer drive than North Alabama.

There's a Craig James joke to be made here
There are so many, many things that this SMU player did wrong that it's hard to isolate one. The first mistake was calling the police.

A police report details a theft from the house occupied by three SMU football players. The report describes the burglary suspect as a prostitute that one of the players said he refused to pay.

General rule of thumb: When you've committed a crime and the committing of that crime will be unearthed by reporting another crime, just keep your mouth shut. Oh, and the refusal to pay $50 led to the swiping of stuff worth $3,000. Cost-benefit analysis is negative.

No -- a secondary violation at Lane Kiffin's school? SCANDAL!
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Boy Wonder's quarterback commented on a Penn State player that USC is hoping to recruit.

This might actually get the death penalty. No. Not really
What in the world is wrong with Chapel Hill? This would seem to be the textbook case of a death penalty situation -- if the NCAA were inclined to ever give another school the death penalty again. But it's not. So it will be interesting to see just how bad the UNC sanctions will get.

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