I received an email yesterday pointing out a change to the new rules for NCAA football in play for the 2013-2014 year (Thank you, reader Christopher). The email was in response to an article I did earlier this year, entitled 2013 NCAA Football Rules Changes - Your Opponent Is Ejected Always, which had to do with changes coming this year by which players can be ejected for targeting and contacting "defenseless players" above the shoulders.
In past seasons the infraction earned a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down for an opposing offense. This year the same infractions can result in automatic ejection.
That article included an analysis about what the NCAA defines as "defenseless players", an important facet of the rules because "defenseless players" should be protected, as hits in those specific conditions should be considered areas in which players could receive severe injuries, the obvious reason being that they cannot protect themselves.
The defenseless player definitions are included in the NCAA rule book under section 2-27-14. However, a rule change has been implemented this season to include the following amongst the "defenseless player" definitions:
2-27-14g - "a player who receives a blind-side block".
Here's the Kenny Bell hit again, as I know that Nebraska fans can't get enough of it, while it makes Wisconsin fans cringe (our only revenge for that game):
You can't watch that play and not conclude that the NCAA didn't change their rule just because of that big ht.
Not a fan of Deadspin, but they had a great take on the the hit. Gus Johnson's comment - "That's football! What is he supposed to do?"
Last year, Bell's block was legal. This year, not so much, apparently.
One of the first things you're taught by your coach in youth football is to keep your "head on a swivel" when you're going downfield on plays like punts, kickoff returns, or long runs and pass plays. What your coach was trying to tell you is - "you might be hit really hard when you're not looking". He made no excuses for you. It was clear at that time - "This is football". It may not be any more.
There has been a fair amount of discussion about whether Kenny Bell's hit was fair or not, including some on the Wisconsin side.
The NCAA has made clear their approach to the game in this aspect and you have to conclude by their decision "no hard hits when some guy isn't looking" isn't allowed any longer.
I'll leave you to decide how this affects the game of football as we know it.