It's a rule that no one really wants to criticize. How could anyone really criticize it without feeling a least a little guilty? After all, it's a rule that was implemented with pure and good intentions. Even more importantly, it was put in place with safety in mind.
There are a lot of differing opinions on it. Nick Saban is in favor of it while Brady Hoke is skeptical.
The rule I'm referring to is the NCAA's brand new so-called "helmet rule". For those of you just crawling out from under a rock, the helmet rule is pretty much this: If a player gets his helmet knocked off for any reason, then that player is required to sit out the next play.
Sounds simple enough, right?
I'm not so sure "simple" is a good way to describe it.Only two weeks of the 2012 season have been completed and we already have our first major controversy related to the rule.
After last weekend's Saturday night defeat to Georgia, Missouri quarterback James Franklin came forward and outright accused the Georgia players of purposely trying to remove his helmet. He had this to say on Tuesday:
"The second time I could feel it, but you could also see on film where he was pulling on it. It definitely was frustrating. You try to make adjustments so they couldn't just pop it off. They say if they see a player intentionally pull it off you won't have to come out. But I think teams will definitely try to do that more."
Mizzou receiver T.J. Moe was a lot more candid with his take on the rule:
"It's a stupid rule that will be gone after this season. Stupidest rule ever in college football. If my quarterback leaves the game one more time because his helmet is ripped off, I'm going to lose it."
I won't go so far as to suggest that the rule is "stupid", and I certainly don't think the rule is going anywhere any time soon. However, if what Franklin is suggesting is true, this problem is going to get worse before it gets better.
College football is more competitive than ever and coaches and players are looking for any advantage they can find. There is nothing to keep a defensive coordinator from using the helmet rule to his advantage; I know I would. In my opinion, if there are coaches out there that are not encouraging their players to do what they can to "help" those helmets pop off then they're just not doing their job.
Ole Miss' Trae Elston was recently suspended a game for a hit he put on UTEP wide receiver Jordan Leslie. There has been a lot of debate regarding whether or not Elston should've been suspended (I personally don't think he should've been) but the suspension is really not the reason I brought it up. I've watched the video several times and it was just the sort of hit that could've dislodged Leslie's helmet. There is nothing definitive but it's entirely possible that Elston was trying to do just that. Here's the clip so draw your own conclusions:
I think it's important to note that Jordan Leslie had seven catches in that game for 80 yards and one touchdown. The game was pretty much over at that point, but UTEP was still flirting with the end zone. Having Leslie out a play would've been big in ending the drive. I'm betting that when the NCAA dreamed up the rule, they never imagined the possibility that the helmet rule may have even created more incentive for players to try and knock an opponent's head off.
Fortunately, the new rule has not had any negative effect on the outcome of a game...yet. I just hope that when it does happen, it won't be the Bulldogs getting the short end of the stick.
The horrific injury sustained by Tulane player Devon Walker was a somber reminder of just how dangerous the game of football is. The helmet rule was designed to significantly reduce injuries just like the one Walker suffered. The spirit of the rule is great and I hope I've made it clear that I'm not suggesting getting rid of it. However, I think some minor tweaks should certainly be considered. I think if the officials began throwing flags for blatant attempts to remove helmets, the problem could at least be controlled to an extent.
In the mean time, players better make sure their helmets are snug and the straps are tight.