NCAA Football: Rule Changes For The 2020 Season

As a member of the Football Writers Association Of America (FWAA) I get emails from the National Football Foundation (NFF). The email that dropped in on Wednesday was quite interesting. The press release was about 2020 NCAA Football rules changes. Included in the rules changes are some real humdingers.

Some of the changes include limits on duplicate numbers, targeting, pregame warmup, scrimmage kick plays, instant replay/clock adjustment, various other changes and yes 2020 rules adjustment for COVID-19.

Shake Down The Thunder Sports is not plagiarizing any content in this article. We are giving full credit to the National Football Foundation. We are using the press release to tell the story, but we are adding our comments as a response to the new rules. Let’s see what football in 2020 will look like and sound like.

Photo By John Tholen Shake Down The Thunder Sports

2020 Rules Changes

Players Numbering

“No more than two Squad Members may be assigned or wear the same jersey number. There were no limits to duplicate numbers in previous seasons. With the recognized popularity of the single digit numbers, the digit “0” is added as a legal number. Any number to be preceded by “0” such as “07” or “00” remains illegal.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: Never liked having two players wearing the same number. Each player should have their own number anyway.

Targeting-Disqualified Player

“There were no changes to the Targeting rule from an on-field officiating perspective and the rule continues to serve the game well and is changing player behavior in terms of use of the helmet. The change for 2020 is that now a player disqualified for Targeting will be declared ineligible for further participation in the game, but the player may remain in the team area.”
“All other disqualifying fouls such as Fighting, two Unsportsmanlike Conduct fouls, Flagrant Personal fouls, etc. will be reclassified as fouls requiring ejection. Players ejected will be required to leave the playing enclosure and must remain out of view of the field of play under team supervision.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: This could cause some trouble. A player that has been disqualified can cause problems throughout the remainder of the game. The disqualified player remaining in the team area can still harass other players or may cause the opposing players to taunt him.

Pregame Warmup/Officials Jurisdiction

“The Rules Committee address issues of Unsportsmanlike behavior in the pregame and took steps to clean this action up. The officials’ jurisdiction will now begin at 90 minutes before kickoff (previously 60 minutes). Additionally, when any Squad Member enters the playing enclosure prior to the game, the head coach or an assistant coach from that team must be present on the field. Furthermore, when any Squad Member is present within the playing enclosure after the officials’ jurisdiction, they must be wearing their jersey or have their numeral readily visible. Players without their numeral readily visible must leave the playing enclosure.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: This makes sense. This way officials can properly identify a player who is causing pregame angst and not penalize the wrong player.

Defensive Linemen on Scrimmage Kick Plays

“To further enhance the protection of the snapper on scrimmage kicks, if the offense is in a scrimmage kick formation at the snap, any defensive player within one yard of the line of scrimmage must be aligned completely outside the frame of the body of the snapper at the snap. This change paired with the current rule that does not allow the defense to initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed on these type plays will further protect the snapper on kick downs.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: This rule is not bad either. Backing up the defensive player makes it easier to visualize contact. Good luck trying to enforce this one. The plays happen so fast it may often be missed.

Instant Replay / Clock Adjustment and Review Time

“If the clock expires at the end of a half, and replay determines that there was time remaining on the clock, and the clock would start on the Referee’s signal after review, there must be at least 3 seconds remaining when the ball should have been declared dead to restore time to the clock. With 2 seconds or 1 second remaining on the clock, the half is over. This change will not impact situations when the clock is stopped and will remain stopped until the snap such as incomplete passes and runners out of bounds. In addition, the expectation is that the Instant Replay Official will not exceed two minutes to complete any review. The exception is if the review has end of game impact or has multiple aspects as a part of the review, it should be completed efficiently but will have no stated time limit.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: There is not much here on these modifications.

Other Changes:

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20
  • “A second jersey meeting all requirements of the jersey rule worn concurrently is allowed.”
  • “The penalty for a team not complying with the jersey rule (i.e., legal and contrasting numbers or a colored jersey in violation of the rule) will be a 15-yard penalty after the kickoff of each half and the loss of a timeout in each quarter that illegal jerseys are worn.”
  • “Defensive Team Substitution Infractions will now be treated as a live ball foul.”
  • “All fouls that have an option to carry over to the succeeding kickoff will also contain an option to carry over to the succeeding spot in extra periods.”

SDTTS Response: Not much in this one. These are basic minor changes, they no major impact to the game except for maybe the last two. Defensive substitution penalties treated like a live ball foul can change a drive for sure. Don’t get penalized at the end of the game that may go into extra periods, it will now be a carry over that can impact on a first score wins moment.

2020 Rules Adjustments For Covid

Team Area and Coaching Box

“To promote enhanced social distancing, the Team Area will be lengthened from the current configuration between the 25-yard lines and expanded to the 15-yard lines. This will enlarge the Team Area an additional 10 yards on each end of the field, resulting in a 70-yard-wide total team area. Coaches will be encouraged to utilize this 70-yard area to separate all team personnel and not have large groups congregating in a specific area near the ball. In addition, based on social distancing guidelines, Coaches are encouraged to stay out of the Restricted Area and remain in the Coaching Box.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: This redefines spread your offense and defense. There is a boat load of players to keep in a small area. Spreading the team area will actually create a wall along the sides of the field.

Pregame Coin Toss

“Currently the toss rules allow up to four Captains from each team to be present at the toss of the coin. Additionally, there are typically many additional non-essential people present such as honorary captains, media, photographers, sideline radio personnel, etc. The change for 2020 would be to include only one Captain from each team and the Referee and the Umpire. These four individuals are the only essential people that can attend the toss, and these four individuals will be spaced out and will conform to social distancing guidelines.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: If you are not needed for the coin toss your not on the 50 yard line period! Never thought the day would come that the 50 yard line would not be crowded at the coin toss.

Uniform Attachment / Medical Mask

“A medical mask made of cloth attached to the facemask below the eye shield area will now be allowed. If worn by any squad member of a team, medical masks must be of the same color and design and must be of a solid color with no advertising, slogans, or insignia. The medical mask may bear the team logo.”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20

SDTTS Response: This is straight up just making sure there is no additional branding or causes on a player during the game.

Playing Rules Changes Related to Commemorative/Memorial Uniform Patches

“In an effort to allow student-athletes the opportunity to use the uniform to voice their opinions and/or express support of racial and social justice, PROP voted to direct all playing rules committees to implement the following policies for all sports effective with the 2020-21 seasons:”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20
  • “As authorized by the institution or conference, allow a commemorative/memorial patch (e.g., names, mascots, nicknames, logos, and marks intended to celebrate or memorialize persons, events, or other causes).”
  • “The patch must not exceed 2¼-square inches and must be placed on the front or sleeve of the uniform and may not interfere with any required markings.”
  • “While not all team members are required to wear the patch, the patch must be identical for those who choose to wear the patch.”
  • “As authorized by the institution or conference, allow other names/words intended to celebrate or memorialize persons, events, or other causes on the back of the jersey/uniform where the player name is traditionally located. The names/words may vary by team member.”

SDTTS Response: I am not sure on this section. This can cause some controversy. This is where sports and current world events can collide. I am not sure how far universities will let this go, but this is one to follow.

2020 Officiating Protocols

“In response to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the following officiating protocols will be in place:”

National Football Foundation Press Release 9/2/20
  • “The traditional whistle will not be allowed based on health concerns. Each official will now use an electronic whistle, and it is recommended that this whistle be attached at the waist.”
  • “All officials will wear a solid black mask. The official will “mask up” when the snap is imminent and may only lower the mask between plays when the official is in space (i.e. social distancing). The official may lower their mask and replenish oxygen but must mask up if anyone approaches the official or the next snap is imminent.”
  • “Protective eyewear and gloves are recommended but is an optional decision that each official can make based on their personal circumstances.”
  • “All officials will be tested for COVID-19 weekly and will follow all Conference protocols.”
  • “Officials will conduct their Friday night film session and Pregame meetings virtually even when they are together in a specific hotel.”
  • “All conference coordinators are reworking crew and game assignments to minimize public transportation.”

SDTTS Response: The most protected person on the field are the officials. The electronic whistle is probably the most interesting one of all. Joked about at for a while, well now its a reality.

The Wrap Up

While 2020 continues to not disappoint (sarcasm) the game of football is adapting to what is being thrown at it. From fewer players and photographers, to electronic whistles and zipper masks. The 2020 season will have a bunch of firsts. Some may come as a distraction to the game, but none the less there will be games on the gridiron in the fall.

Cheers and Go Irish ☘🏈🌩

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