FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
Hello Football Fans,
The college football season gets started this Thursday, with five days of games through Labor Day, Monday, September 2nd.
Attached are rule changes for college and NFL and coaching changes for college (NFL coaching changes next week), plus a few other tidbits.
Enjoy the season,
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
NATIONAL TITLE IMPACT GAME
AP#5 Georgia (-2) at AP#8 CLEMSON Huge game: SEC vs. ACC Sat, 8/31
Selected FBS RIVALRY GAMES and other good matchups
AP#12 LSU (-4h) vs. AP#20 TCU SEC v BIG12, neutral site Dallas Sat, 8/31
AP#1 Alabama (-19) vs. VA Tech SEC v. ACC; neutral site Atlanta Sat, 8/31
North Carolina (+11) at AP#6 S.CAR ACC v. SEC Thu, 8/29
C.Michigan (+31h) at AP#17 MICH MAC v. Big 10 Sat, 8/31
W.Michigan (+27) at MICH.ST MAC v. Big 10 Fri, 8/30
AP#19 Boise State (-3h) at Washington MW v. PAC-12 Sat, 8/31
Rutgers (+10) at FRESNO STATE New AAC v. MW Thu, 8/29
AP#24 USC (-22) at Hawaii 13 games for Trojans; PAC12vMW Thu, 8/29
Miss. State (+12h) vs. AP#13 OK St. SEC v. BIG12; neutral site Houston Sat, 8/31
Tulsa (+3) at BOWLING GREEN CUSA v. MAC; frontrunners Thu, 8/29
Northern ILL (+3) at IOWA N.ILL BCS Bowl last year Sat, 8/31
BYU (-1) at VIRGINIA Independent vs. ACC Sat, 8/31
Colorado State (-2h) vs. Colorado MW v. PAC12; neutral site Denver Sun, 9/1
Utah State (+2h) at UTAH MW v. 12-PACK Thu, 8/29
Kentucky (-4h) v. W. Kentucky SEC v. Sun Belt; neutral Nashville Sat, 8/31
Mississippi (-3) at VANDERBILT SEC opener for both teams Thu, 8/29
FBS vs. FCS (preseason rankings of Coaches Poll)
North Dakota St. (FCS#1) at KANSAS STATE (-14) Fri, 8/30
Wofford (FCS#5) at BAYLOR (-28) Sat, 8/31
E. Washington (FCS#3) at AP#25 OREGON STATE (-27) Sat, 8/31
Towson (FCS#12) at UCONN (-17) Thu, 8/29
Villanova (FCS#9) at BOSTON COLLEGE (-18) Sat, 8/31
Illinois State (FCS#10) at BALL STATE (-12) Thu, 8/29
Northern Iowa (FCS#16) at IOWA STATE (-9h) Sat, 8/31
N. Arizona (FCS#18) at ARIZONA (-35) Fri, 8/30
E. Illinois (FCS#23) at SAN DIEGO STATE (-15) Sat, 8/31
Monday night: AP#11 Florida State (-10h) at Pittsburgh Mon, 9/2
COLLEGE PRESEASON POLLS
The Associated Press (sportswriters) and USA Today (coaches) polls are nearly identical, with the exact same Top 25 teams in a slightly different order. The Top 5, #8 through #10, and #15 through #25 are exactly the same. The ordering for #6 and #7 are switched, and the #11 through #14 teams have a slightly different order.
Here is the AP Top 25 (with #1 votes in parentheses):
ALA (58), Ohio.St (1), Oregon, Stanford, Georgia (1)
S.Carolina, Texas A&M, Clemson, Louisville, Florida
FSU, LSU, OKLA.St, Notre Dame, Texas
Oklahoma, Michigan, Nebraska, Boise State, TCU
UCLA, Northwestern, Wisconsin, USC, Oregon State
The USA Today poll gave 58 first place votes to Alabama, 3 to Ohio State, and 1 to Texas A&M.
COLLEGE RULE CHANGES
Promoting player safety is the major focus in the rule changes this football season.
“Targeting” fouls, which result in automatic ejection, top the list.
Following are the rule changes for the 2013 season, with explanations for each:
1. Targeting Fouls: Automatic Ejection, Part I:
Players will automatically be disqualified from the game for targeting fouls, including targeting and initiating contact with the crown of the helmet, and targeting and initiating contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder. The foul itself has not changed. These plays have been illegal for a number of years, but the penalty has been stiffened to include automatic ejection plus the 15-yard penalty.
Comments: If a player is ejected in the first half, he'll miss the remainder of the game; if the foul occurs after halftime, he'll also miss the first half of his next game. Video replay can be used to confirm ejections on the field (but not overturn the 15-yard penalty).
2. Targeting Fouls: Automatic Ejection, Part II
A player is at great risk of being ejected from the game for a launch (leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make contact in the head or neck area); a crouch (followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with contact at the head or neck area); leading (with helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with contact at the head or neck area); or lowering (the head before attacking by initiating contact with the crown of the helmet).
Comment on enforcement: The Big 10’s Front Office wanted to emphasize how serious its league will be on enforcement of this rule. The statement to the officials (not in jest) was: “When in doubt, throw him out,” and to always err on the side of calling the foul.
3. Offensive Blocking Below the Waist Rule:
The rule establishes a zone for the offense that extends seven yards from the snapper toward each sideline and goes five yards into the defensive secondary and in the other direction all the way back to the offensive team’s end line. Within this zone, an offensive back who is stationary inside the tackle box and an offensive lineman inside the seven-yard zone may legally block below the waist until the ball has left the zone. Everyone else on the offensive team may legally block below the waist only if the block is clearly to the front of the opponent. This only-from-the-front rule also holds true for everyone on the offensive team once the ball has left the zone. In addition, no one on the offense is allowed to block below the waist if the block is directed toward his own end line.
Comment: Wow, if you’re really interested, you may have to read that a second time.
4. Expansion of the 10-Second Runoff Rule:
In 2013, if a player is injured within the last minute of a half, and this is the only reason for stopping the clock, the opponent may choose to have 10 seconds subtracted from the game clock. The injured player’s team can preserve the 10 seconds by using a timeout.
Comment: Notre Dame, pay attention!
5. Player May Remain in the Game Via a Timeout After Helmet Comes Off:
The rule requiring a player to leave the game for one down if his helmet comes off has been modified to allow a player to remain in the game if his team is granted a charged timeout to adjust the player’s helmet.
6. Minimum Time to Spike the Ball for Another Play Set at 3 Seconds:
Teams will need a minimum of three seconds from the referee's signal to "spike" the ball to allow for another play at the end of a half. Teams must still execute the spike, but they will have a reasonable opportunity for another play. If the clock shows one or two seconds, they will only have enough time to run a play without first spiking the ball.
7. Procedures for Changing Jersey Numbers During a Game:
If a team wants to use a player at two different positions during the game, and they need to change jersey numbers, the player must report to the referee who will in turn announce the change. In addition, two players who play the same position at different times in the game may not wear the same number during the game. For example, two quarterbacks may not both wear number 12.
8. Player Uniform Numerals Must Contrast With the Color of the Jersey:
The color of the jersey number itself must be clearly and obviously in contrast with the jersey, regardless of any border around the number. For example, teams will not be allowed to wear black numbers on black jerseys with a border of a bright color around the numeral; it must clearly contrast with the jersey in and of itself.
9. Allows instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was in place only for the end of each half.
The NCAA Legislative Council approved a new rule that allows any FBS team with a 6–6 record entering a conference championship game to be bowl-eligible regardless of the result of the title game. Previously, such teams (for example, Georgia Tech last season and UCLA in 2011) had to seek an NCAA waiver if they lost in their conference championship.
The NCAA is permitting the Big 12 Conference to experiment with an eighth official during conference games, positioned in the offensive backfield opposite the Referee (similar to the positioning of the umpire in the NFL) to assist in detecting infractions (such as holding, chop blocks, blindside hits on the quarterback, etc.) on the offensive line as well as spotting the ball and monitoring substitutions. This official will be referred to as an "alternate referee" and wear an "A" on the back of the uniform (… and I don’t believe the “A” has to be scarlet in color).
Not rule changes:
A rule that would have required the colors of uniform jerseys and pants to contrast to the field was recommended by the Rules Committee but was denied by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel. This rule was proposed to prevent teams such as Boise State University from wearing uniforms that matched the color of their field.
Another recommended rule that would have switched the side of the field on which the line-to-gain and down markers are displayed in each half was also denied.
COLLEGE HEAD COACHING CHANGES
SCHOOL FORMER COACH (exit date) NEW COACH (hire date)
Appalachian State Jerry Moore (Dec. 2) Scott Satterfield (Dec. 14)
Arkansas John L. Smith (Nov. 24) Bret Bielema (Dec. 4) FROM WISCONSIN
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (Dec. 4) Bryan Harsin (Dec. 12)
Auburn Gene Chizik (Nov. 25) Gus Malzahn (Dec.4) FROM ARK. STATE
Austin Peay Rick Christophel (Jan. 22) Kirby Cannon (Mar. 18)
Boston College Frank Spaziani (Nov. 25) Steve Addazio (Dec. 4)
California Jeff Tedford (Nov. 20) Sonny Dykes (Dec. 5) FROM LA. TECH
Campbell Dale Steele (Nov. 5) Mike Minter (Nov. 27)
Charleston Sthrn Jay Mills (Jan. 3) Jamey Chadwell (Jan. 17)
Cincinnati Butch Jones (Dec. 7) Tommy Tuberville (Dec. 8) FROM TEXAS TECH, FORMERLY HC AT AUBURN
Colorado Jon Embree (Nov. 25) Mike MacIntyre (Dec. 10) FROM SAN JOSE ST
Cornell Kent Austin (Dec. 17) David Archer (Jan. 4)
Davidson Tripp Merritt (Nov. 5) Paul Nichols (Dec. 21)
Delaware K.C. Keeler (Jan. 7) Dave Brock (Jan. 18)
Florida A&M Joe Taylor (Nov. 7) Earl Holmes (Jan. 11)
FIU Mario Cristobal (Dec. 5) Ron Turner (Jan. 4) FORMERLY HC AT ILLINI
Gardner-Webb Ron Dickerson Jr. (Jan. 18) Carroll McCray (Jan. 28)
Georgia State Bill Curry (Nov. 10) Trent Miles (Nov. 30) FROM INDIANA ST.
Idaho Robb Akey (Oct. 21) Jason Gesser (Interim) Paul Petrino (Dec.3) BOBBY’S BROTHER
Indiana State Trent Miles (Nov. 30) Mike Sanford (Dec. 14)
Jacksonville St Jack Crowe (Nov. 30) Bill Clark (Dec. 18)
Kent State Darrell Hazell (Dec. 5) Paul Haynes (Dec. 18)
Kentucky Joker Phillips (Nov. 24) Mark Stoops (Nov. 27) ANOTHER BRO
Louisiana Tech Sonny Dykes (Dec. 5) Skip Holtz (Dec. 14) FROM USF
Morehead State Matt Ballard (Nov. 20) Rob Tenyer (Dec. 13)
Nevada Chris Ault (Dec. 28) Brian Polian (Jan. 7) SON OF BILL
New Mexico State DeWayne Walker (Jan. 24) Doug Martin (Feb. 1)
N.C. Central Henry Frazier III (Aug. 22) Dwayne Foster (Interim)
North Carolina St Tom O'Brien (Nov. 25) Dave Doeren (Dec. 1) FROM N. ILL.
Northern Illinois Dave Doeren (Dec. 1) Rod Carey (Dec. 2) NIU OL COACH
Northwestern St Bradley Dale Peveto (Nov. 19) Jay Thomas (Dec. 20)
Oregon Chip Kelly (Jan. 16) Mark Helfrich (Jan. 20) OREGON’S OC
Purdue Danny Hope (Nov. 25) Darrell Hazell (Dec. 5) FROM KENT ST.
San Diego Ron Caragher (Dec. 17) Dale Lindsey (Dec. 28)
San Jose State Mike MacIntyre (Dec. 10) Kent Baer (Interim)
Ron Caragher (Dec. 17) FROM USDiego
Savannah State Steve Davenport (April 17) Earnest Wilson III (June 7)
South Florida Skip Holtz (Dec. 2) Willie Taggart (Dec. 8) FROM WESTERN KENTUCKY
Southern Stump Mitchell (Sept. 17) Dawson Odums (Dec. 14)
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (Nov. 27) Todd Monken (Dec. 12) OKL.ST OC
Syracuse Doug Marrone (Jan. 7) TO BUF BILLS Scott Shafer (Jan. 9) SYRACUSE’S DC
Temple Steve Addazio (Dec. 4) Matt Rhule (Dec. 17) TEMPLE OC
Tennessee Derek Dooley (Nov. 18) Jim Chaney (Interim)
Butch Jones (Dec. 7) FROM CINCINNATI
Texas-El Paso Mike Price (Nov. 19) Sean Kugler (Dec. 10) NFL OL COACH
Texas Tech Tommy Tuberville (Dec. 8) Kliff Kingsbury (Dec. 12) FORMER TX TECH QB AND ASS’T COACH
UC Davis Bob Biggs (Nov. 17) Ron Gould (Dec. 17)
Utah State Gary Andersen (Dec. 20) Matt Wells (Dec. 20) UTAH ST OC
Weber State John L. Smith (April 23) Jody Sears (Nov. 21)
Western Illinois Mark Hendrickson (Nov. 19) Bob Nielson (Dec. 19)
Western Kentucky Willie Taggart (Dec. 8) Bobby Petrino (Dec. 10) FROM ARKANSAS, FORMERLY ATL FALCONS
Western Michigan Bill Cubit (Nov. 17) P.J. Fleck (Dec. 17) AGE 32
Wisconsin Bret Bielema (Dec. 4) Gary Andersen (Dec. 20) FROM UTAH STATE
NFL RULE CHANGES
The NFL announced several rule changes for the 2013 season. Here's a quick summary on what rules have changed, and a couple points of emphasis that referees will be looking for.
Hitting with crown of helmet
This is the one that you probably already know about. The new rule states that both runners and tacklers are prohibited from initiating contact with the crown of their helmet outside the tackle box. The components of an illegal hit are: (1) The player must line up his opponent, (2) the player must lower his head, and (3) the player must deliver a forcible blow with his crown to any part of the opposing player's body.
Violations will result in a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty, as well as potential discipline from the league if warranted. If both players are moving at an angle or haven't lined up their opponent yet, then no foul will be assessed on the play (in theory).
On field goal or extra point plays, the defense cannot have more than 6 players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper. If they do, it will result in a 5-yard “illegal formation” penalty. Defensive players also can't push down linemen into the offensive line. That will result in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
In terms of low blocks, the defense cannot block an offensive player below the waist on a field goal, extra point, or a punt play. An offensive player may do so until the ball is kicked.
Another new wrinkle for kicking plays is that the snapper will be considered “defenseless” and can't be contacted until he becomes an active blocker. Contacting the snapper before they begin engaging as a blocker will result in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. A defensive player trying to split the center/guard gap is not a penalty, but can be if they make unnecessary contact with the snapper.
“Peel back” blocks
Peel back blocks are now illegal anywhere on the field, and will be subject to a 15-yard penalty and potential discipline from the league. The peel back block was previously illegal only outside the tackle box. For the block to be legal, the blocker's near shoulder must get fully across the opposing player's body.
Supplemental discipline for player safety rule violations
All violations of player safety rules are subject to potential fines or suspensions. All violations of rules regarding contact to the head of defenseless players shall be considered for suspension if: (1) the striking player took an unobstructed path, (2) the opponent's position hasn't been affected by another player, and (3) contact was clearly avoidable. Mitigating factors will be taken into account if they are available.
One or more prior violations of this type means the player will be suspended, even if there are mitigating circumstances.
Pads (protective gear)
All players besides kickers and punters are now required to wear thigh and knee pads. This brings the NFL in line with every other level of organized football. If a player comes out onto the field before a game without the pads, he will not be allowed to play until he puts the pads on.
Comment: Bill Parcells favors this rule, and said he had constant battles with players to get them to wear the proper padding when he coached. He stated that in his experience, cornerbacks and receivers were the most flagrant violators.
Any loss of control after the tuck motion begins will be a fumble. It used to be ruled a pass until the quarterback tucked the ball all the way back into his body, at which point any loss of control would then be ruled a fumble.
Comment: Oakland lost a playoff game because of the former Tuck Rule. On January 19, 2002, Raiders’ CB Charles Woodson appeared to create a game-clinching forced fumble on Patriots’ QB Tom Brady, only to have the officials rule it an incomplete pass.
Mistakenly-thrown challenge flags
A play can still be reviewed if a coach erroneously throws a challenge flag. If the play in question is a scoring play, turnover, play inside 2 minutes of a half, or during overtime, the team will be charged a timeout automatically. If the team does not have any timeouts, they will be assessed a 15-yard penalty, but the play will still be reviewed.
Comment: Previously, if a coach threw a challenge flag on an automatically reviewable play, the team would be penalized 15 yards and no review would take place. Now, the offending team will be assessed a timeout (or a 15-yard penalty if the team has no timeouts remaining), but the play being challenged will still be reviewed.
Points of emphasis
Referees will make the following situations “points of emphasis” for the 2013 season:
(a) Late hits near a pile or on the ground
(b) Playing and making contact after a play is whistled dead
(c) Offensive players cannot grab a defensive player's facemask. Straight-arms are still okay but they can't grab.
(d) Taunting will get called more (e.g., cracking down on "verbal abuse of an opponent")
(e) Blocks like the one that ended Brian Cushing's season are now illegal (see detail below)
(f) Crack down on celebrations, including "spinning" the ball, which the league classifies as "taunting". (On first downs, but not on touchdowns)
And, for those of you that want more detail on those points of emphasis and rule changes:
• The enforcement of hits on players in the grasp, players whose forward progress has been stopped or contacting players who are already on the ground.
• Ball-carriers who grab and twist, turn or pull on an opponent's face mask, or grab the face mask and use it to control an opponent. Also, runners who deliver forcible blows to an opponent's head while attempting a stiff arm are subject to 15-yard penalties and potential discipline from the league office.
• "Peel back" blocks are now illegal inside the tackle box. An example of an illegal peel-back block took place in a game between the Houston Texans and New York Jets on Oct. 8, 2012. Jets guard Matt Slauson delivered a low, peel-back block on Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, resulting in a torn ACL that ended Cushing's 2012 season. That incident took place just outside the tackle box, and a flag probably should have been thrown. The ambiguity of the location has been removed from the equation as these blocks are now illegal at any spot on the field. Penalties for this infraction will be a loss of 15 yards.
• Along the same "player safety" lines, it is now illegal for ball-carriers and tacklers to lead with the crown of their helmets when both players are outside of the tackle box. Here's how the new rule reads:
"It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box (an area extending from tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team’s end line). Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul."
Three elements must all be present for a flag to be thrown. The player must (a) line up his opponent, (b) lower his head and (c.) deliver a forcible blow with the crown of his helmet.
• The NFL has reminded players that "clear violations" of rules prohibiting contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless player will be considered for suspensions if (a) the play involves an unobstructed path to his opponent, (b) the opponent's position has not been significantly affected by any other player and (c.) the contact was avoidable.
If there are mitigating factors, a player may avoid a suspension, but could still be fined. Players with repeat violations of rules pertaining to hits that violate player safety rules are subject to suspension even if mitigating factors in the hit are present.
• The NFL has gotten rid of the "Tuck Rule", which passed by a 29-1 vote at the owner's meetings in March. The two teams that abstained were naturally the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots, whose meeting in the divisional round of the 2001 AFC playoffs brought that obscure rule to the surface. Under the rule change, if a quarterback loses possession of the football while attempting to bring it back to his body, it will be ruled a fumble.
NFL HEAD COACHING CHANGES
I’ll do this prior to the first week of games, the week after Labor Day.
NFL GAMES FOR WEEK ONE
Thursday Kickoff 2013 8:30PM Eastern
Sept 5th Baltimore (+7h) at Denver 2012 playoff rematch; Super Bowl Champ usually opens
at home, but there was schedule conflict with Orioles BB
Sunday Early Divisional Matchups:
Sept 8th New England (-7) at Buffalo
Atlanta (+2h) at New Orleans Sets the tone for NFC South
Minnesota (+3) at Detroit
Arizona (+6) at St. Louis
NY Giants (+3) at Dallas Sets the tone for NFC East
Other interesting matchups:
Green Bay (+5) at San Fran, Preview of 2013 NFC Championship Game??
The rest of the games:
Tennessee (+6h) at Pittsburgh
Tampa Bay (-1) at NY Jets
Kansas City (-2h) at Jacksonville
Cincinnati (+3h) at Chicago
Miami (-1) at Cleveland
Seattle (-3h) at Carolina
Oakland (+7) at Indianapolis
Monday Double Header Philadelphia (+5) at Washington (7PM Eastern)
Sept 9th Houston (-3h) at San Diego (10:15PM Eastern)
FFHL RESULTS FOR 2012
I never published the final results in our pool for last year.
KRAUT went 6-1 against the spread (ATS) in the Fantastic Bowl to earn the FFHL Championship over BILLY THE BRIT, who went a respectable 4-3 ATS.
KID RUST, who also went 4-3 for the week, won the Consolation Bowl to get 3rd place.
MOORE MONEY didn’t even make the playoffs, but still won top prize in The Deuce (FFHL2) with 191.0 points, far surpassing the other money winners – 2nd place Kid Rust (160.0), 3rd place The Rounders (158.5), and 4th place Hawkeye (155.0). Kraut missed the money with 152.5 points for the year.
THE FALLOUT and NEW BLOOD:
Billy the Brit has reached his frustration level, having come so close to the peak of the mountain yet never standing alone at the top. Bill decided to spend his weekends in Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and I’m sure a few bottles of Pinot Noir will be involved.
Taking his place will be TOMMY BOY, the son of FILTER KING who is poised to take over his father’s fuel filter business. If you saw the movie “Tommy Boy” (Brian Denehy as father-owner of filter factory, Chris Farley as the son), you will easily get the connection. Brandon, at age twenty-something, will be stepping into Division A and will have to battle his father Doug for a spot in the playoffs out of the Senior Division.
OTHER CATCH-UP and MINUTIA OF POTENTIAL INTEREST
I’m running out of time; will throw in a few tidbits in next week’s letter.
Sorry, none this week.
Games start on Thursday!