The 2020 college football season will offer unique challenges.
Dennis Hennigan, the ACC Supervisor of Football Officials, recently fielded some questions on some of the rule changes and adjustments in store this fall.
- What are the biggest adjustments game officials are having to make due to COVID-19?
A: In regard to officiating the game, the biggest adjustments are the wearing of a face covering and the use of an electronic whistle. Pregame, the officials are being tested each week within 72 hours of kickoff, and then, on game day, they will undergo temperature and symptom screening. The pregame “105-minute meeting” with game operations staff will be conducted virtually.
- What are more obvious rule changes fans may notice have been put into effect due to the pandemic?
A: The changes that have been put in effect for this season are more of the game administration/game management type, rather than actual playing rule changes. Some changes you may notice this year include (a) only one captain for each team will be permitted at the coin toss instead of the customary four; and (b) the “team area,” the part of a team’s sideline in which the team members and coaches may be located, has been expanded to run from 15-yard line to 15-yard line. Previously it ran from the 25 to the 25.
- For the first time, a player may legally wear the number ‘0’ in game competition. Is anyone restricted from wearing that number?
A: Any player may wear the number “0.” The player wearing it can be an eligible receiver, provided the other eligibility requirements are met. A player may not wear “0” followed by another number; for instance, “07” is not permitted. An interior lineman could wear the number “0,” but the offense would still be required to have five linemen numbered 50-79.
- What prompted the change in the targeting rule which allows the disqualified player to remain on the sidelines?
A: Too much attention was paid to the disqualified player as he was walking to his locker room. There is no reason to subject the player to this attention. This rule change will allow the player to stay in the team area with his teammates.
- Can you discuss the extension of the officials’ jurisdiction to 90 minutes in pregame?
A: Having an increased presence during pregame activity is one way to help eliminate any disruptive conduct. There have been incidents over the past few seasons in which there were altercations between teams during pregame warmups, and the rules committee wanted to be assertive in taking steps to eliminate this type of conduct.
- Should the increased expectation that no instant replay review take more than two minutes significantly speed up games?
A: This “expectation” is in the form of a guideline as opposed to being a hard and fast rule. The governing philosophy is that, in most reviews, if a decision cannot be reached in two minutes, then there is not the “indisputable video evidence” required to reverse the ruling on the field. And so that ruling should “stand.” Since the great majority of reviews take less than two minutes, I would not expect this new “expectation” to significantly reduce the length of games.
- Do you see the “three-second” rule for clock management at the end of halves making it less of a “judgment call” for officials and eliminating controversy?
A: Just to review this new rule: If time expires in a half, and the clock should have been declared dead with time still remaining on the clock, the replay official will restore time to the clock only if there were at least three seconds remaining when the clock should have been stopped. If there was only one or two seconds remaining when the clock should have been stopped, time will not be restored, and the half is over. Of course, if the offense has a timeout remaining, then, even with one or two seconds remaining, they can use their timeout and the time will be restored. This is a positive rule change that will allow for a more consistent handling of these end of half situations.