Buckle Your Chinstraps: New Rule in College Football


That is indeed the lamest title I could have come up with for this…. a new rule in college football for players whose helmet pops off during a play. In the past, when the ball carrier’s helmet goes flying the play is dead, but there is a new rule for 2012 that makes any player whose helmet pops off ineligible.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed a bunch of players losing their helmets. Last year it was like an epidemic. But then you see them not buckling their chinstrap, or easily pulling their helmet off because its so loose fitting. The NCAA says it happens an average of two times per game. With all the hard hits now-a-days, this could lead to some serious problems – hence the rule.

If the ball carrier’s helmet pops off – the play is still dead right then. But if any other player’s helmet comes off during the course of a play, they are ineligible and cannot continue to be apart of the play. So if it’s an offensive lineman, he can’t block anymore; if it’s a linebacker, he can’t try to tackle. If they do it will be an automatic personal foul – 15 yard penalty. In addition to that, a helmet coming off is treated like an injury, the player must sit out the next play.

I think this is a good rule because it will get these guys to wear tighter-fitting helmets, and truly buckle their chinstraps. Hopefully we won’t see too many helmets popping off this year (we only had one touchdown called back for celebration prior to the goal line last year). What we may see, at least in the first few games, are some guys in the trenches being flagged for illegal hands to the face trying to get their opposition’s helmets off.

There is one part of this rule that doesn’t make any sense to me: if the ball carrier’s helmet comes off and there is under one minute to play there will be a 10 second runoff – just like a false start. It’s absurd to think a player would intentionally get his helmet to pop off in order to stop the clock. What if there are :08 left in a game and this happens….game over.

Other rule changes of note: the ball will be placed on the 25 yard line on kickoff touchbacks. And, receiving teams can fair catch on-side kicks.