The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

September 10, 2012

Bill Bowman's college football column: Tighten those straps

It was a critical play in the game, and even in a game decided by two points, it was more important than most.

But there were the Bison, on the porch with a chance to finish off Marist in Saturday night's season opener, when their best offensive player was on the sideline on third-and-goal. Brandon Wesley, in the midst of maybe his best performance ever at Bucknell, wasn't hurt. He was sidelined by one of the NCAA's newest rules after his helmet came off.

The new rule, instituted at all levels of college football, is pretty simple and has few loopholes. If a player's helmet comes off, they are required to sit out the next play, even if there was no contact. If it is the end of a quarter, the player sits the first play of the next quarter. Even if a coach uses a timeout -- which BU coach Joe Susan did on Saturday -- the player still needs to sit. In addition, if a player's helmet does come off, the play is to be blown dead immediately.

The only forgiveness in the rule comes if the helmet is deliberately knocked off with an illegal use of hands to the face penalty.

"The entire focus of college football, from the rules committee to the trainers, doctors and medical staff, is now on the concept of player safety," said Jim Corpora, the supervisor of officials for the Centennial Conference.

Corpora, who officiated last season's Alamo Bowl, said Monday that on the opening week of the season, Sept. 1, there roughly 200 incidents involving players losing their helmets around the country. Bill Carollo, the Big Ten's officiating coordinator, said there was a conference game last year where helmets came off 25 times.

"Right, wrong or otherwise, it's been happening in college football despite all the emphasis put on safety and correctly fitting the equipment," Corpora sad.

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