College football officials are discussing a radical rule shift that could be indicative of change across the entire sport.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported Monday that the NCAA’s oversight committee and the American Football Coaches Association have had “informal talks” about eliminating kickoffs from college football for player safety. The two bodies are gathering data on injuries that result on kickoffs, but it’s believed that kickoffs present a greater risk given their violent nature.
Preliminary discussions have begun about abolishing kickoffs in college football. https://t.co/HBKRy2ddV6
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 18, 2016
Dodd reports that any change wouldn’t come until after the 2017 season, and that the NCAA rules committee hasn’t begun discussing the issue. The AFCA advises the NCAA rules committee on matters like this, so the discussion will usually start with them.
The NCAA moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line in 2012 in an effort to increase touchbacks and decrease collisions on kickoffs. The NFL did the same a year prior, and Pop Warner youth football eliminated kickoffs for any age group under 10 this spring.
Nearly 60 percent of NFL kickoffs now result in touchbacks, and in 2012, concussions were down slightly on these plays. Though it’s always been this way in college, NFL teams now start at the 25-yard line following a touchback, up five yards, giving them another incentive to take a knee in the end zone.
“The fragmentary data we do have [is] most concussions happen [at a higher rate] on kickoffs,” NCAA rules committee secretary-rules editor Rogers Redding told CBS Sports. “It will be discussed.”
Michigan led the Big Ten in return average in 2015 at 28.4, but only brought back 28 kicks. Northwestern was second at 25.1, while Indiana and Nebraska were last at 19.2 and 18.2, respectively.