We all love college football, but as a central life truth reminds us, we love others enough to tell them when they’re wrong.
People and issues we don’t care about are not worth our time. Only our passions — spouses, intimate friends, and important causes — deserve our energy, labor and sweat. If someone — or something — we love is following a wayward path, we express our love by bringing (or trying to bring) our beloved back to the right road, a place of restoration and balance.
I love college football enough to tell the sport how much I hate it every year — no, not the things that make the sport great, but the aspects of every game which get in the damn way of fairness and common sense.
Another season has arrived, and while college football’s rule-makers made some sensible changes, outlined here, the sport left so many other rules unchanged.
Don’t get emotionally or factually ambushed when you watch a crazy play in a game and realize that a really dumb rule exists. Be prepared… and also be ready to send mail (polite but firm) or make a phone call to your conference office or the various coordinators of officials.
These are just some of the rules which still exist in college football:
A ball-carrier on a running play can reach the plane of the goal line and be credited with a touchdown immediately, but a player who catches a pass in the end zone isn’t granted an immediate touchdown even if he has firm possession of the ball with a foot down. He has to endure a fall/spin/roll — any actions after the initial catch — without subsequently losing control of the pigskin. Only THEN does he get a touchdown. Run possession and pass possession in the end zone are held to two different standards.
A muffed kickoff or punt outside one’s own end zone, should it roll out of the end zone (side or back line, it doesn’t matter), is not a safety. A muffed punt outside one’s end zone, if recovered in one’s own end zone, is not a safety. A fumble out of the opponent’s end zone, however (an unrecovered fumble, just to emphasize the point) means loss of possession and a touchback. Different sets of rules apply to different fumbles at different ends of the field. One mistake leading to a live ball which is subsequently unrecovered by the defense creates no punishment at all for the offense. Another mistake leading to the same live ball and the same lack of a recovery by the defense is given a supremely harsh sanction.
If the flight of a field goal takes the ball higher than the top of the upright, a kick cannot be reviewed. Remember, we don’t have cameras attached to goal posts, more than 15 years into the 21st century. (We can’t expect this for all stadiums, especially in the Sun Belt and Conference USA and the MAC, but the idea that Power Five stadiums can’t have cameras attached to goal posts for replay purposes is ridiculous. This is what TV money is supposed to pay for.)
If a punt returner tries to fair-catch a ball but has the ball clang off his shoulders, as happened in the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game last year, the defense isn’t allowed to catch the deflection if there’s any chance the punt returner can catch it first. Yes, that’s an actual rule which — while perhaps unfairly interpreted — enabled Ole Miss to avoid a turnover in a game it won. That rule was not changed this year.
We still don’t start overtime possessions from the 50, or at least the opponent’s 40, which would require offenses to get at least one first down in order to get into scoring range.
Two larger points:
A) This is but a small sampling of the rulebook’s manifold flaws.
B) None of this deals with the much larger structural problem hounding college football, especially in last year’s Miami-Duke game: We still don’t have conference-operated command centers for centralized replay. The process is still carried out through isolated teams in press boxes at the stadium. Command centers would have, for instance, enabled the ACC office to not only overturn the incorrect ruling that Miami’s touchdown should have stood against Duke, but to award Duke the victory. With on-site replay crews removed from league offices, college football exists in a situation where the conference can only declare that an error was made on Sunday morning, without reversing the game’s outcome. Command centers with league officials in the room could promptly reverse outcomes whenever a game’s final play (or a play in the last minute) profoundly changed the outcome.
Welcome to a new season of college football. It’s once again time to curse a bunch of horrible rules which somehow remain unchanged.
We hate… because we care about this sport and love it enough to make it better.