The NCAA Football Rules Committee has extraordinary pride in the Football Code, which was introduced in 1916 and has been updated several times. These guidelines form a harmony of agreement among coaches, players, game officials and administrators that places each contest in an environment of fairness and sportsmanship. It is noted that the Code emphasizes the following unethical practices: “Using the helmet as a weapon. The helmet is for protection of the player…” and “players and coaches should emphasize the elimination of targeting and initiating contact against a defenseless opponent and/or with the crown of the helmet.” Every participant in the collegiate football scene shares a responsibility for ethical conduct that enhances the future of this American tradition.
PROTECTION OF DEFENSELESS PLAYERS AND CROWN-OF- HELMET ACTION—In 2008, the committee introduced a separate rule prohibiting forcible contact with the helmet and targeting a defenseless opponent. These actions are now in two rules: Targeting and Making Forcible Contact With the Crown 6of the Helmet (Rule 9-1-3) and Targeting and Making Forcible Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player (Rule 9-1-4). Use of the helmet as a weapon and intentional (targeted) contact to the head or neck area are serious safety concerns. The penalties for fouls under both 9-1-3 and 9-1-4 include automatic disqualification. The committee continues to emphasize that coaches and officials must be diligent to insure that players understand and abide by these rules. Rule 2-27-14 defines and lists characteristics of a defenseless player.
HELMETS—The helmet is intended to protect the player from head injuries. It must therefore be fitted properly so that it does not come off through play. Coaches and trainers must be diligent in seeing that players wear the helmets properly, and officials must firmly enforce the rules requiring chin straps to be tightly secured. The rules (Rule 3-3-9) now call for the player whose helmet comes off to leave the game for one down, unless this is the direct result of a foul. The player may remain in the game if his team is granted a charged timeout.
SIDELINE CONTROL—The rules committee admonishes NCAA member institutions and conferences to enforce strictly the rules regarding the team area and coaching box (Rule 1-2-4-a, back of the limit lines between the 25-yard lines), and the space between the limit lines (Rules 1-2-3-a and b, 12 feet outside the sidelines and the end line) and the sidelines. These field-level locations must be kept clear of persons who have no game responsibilities. The field level is not for spectators. It must be reserved for those who are performing a service associated with action on the field of play and for administration of the game. Simply put, no job means no sideline pass.
Each team is limited to 60 persons in its team area, not including squad members in full uniform, who shall be wearing a team credential. (Full uniform is defined as equipped in accord with NCAA rules and ready to play.) The credentials should be numbered 1 through 60. They should be reserved only for those who are directly involved in the game. No other credential should be valid for the team area.
Persons who are directly involved in the game include (Rules 1-1-6 and 1-2-4-b): coaches, team managers, medical and athletic training staff members, athletics communications staff members, and game operations staff members (e.g., chain crew, ball persons, official media liaisons, technicians responsible for coach-to-press box communications). While the game is in progress, the area from the limit lines outward to the stadium seating, outside the team area, should be restricted to credentialed media camera operators and on-air personnel, cheer team members in uniform, and stadium security personnel in uniform. Game management personnel and stadium security personnel are responsible for enforcing these restrictions.
SAFETY AND MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS—In consultation with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), the Football Rules Committee strongly encourages coaches and officials to be diligent in insuring that players wear mandatory equipment. It is especially important that equipment and pads cover body parts for which they were designed. Particular attention is drawn to wearing uniform pants that cover the knees, which are easily abraded when exposed. Football players are especially susceptible to methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is resistant to commonly used antibiotics. MRSA results in lost playing time. More seriously it has caused the deaths of several football players in recent years. MRSA is typically transmitted through body-to-body contact from an infected wound or via an object (e.g., towel) that has come in contact with the infected area. It is not transmitted through the air, is not found on mud or grass, and cannot live on artificial turf. The committee recommends observing common medical precautions to reduce the incidence of MRSA infections. Consult the NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook, which may be found at www.ncaapublications. com.
CONCUSSIONS—Coaches and medical personnel should exercise caution in the treatment of a student-athlete who exhibits signs of a concussion. See Appendix B for detailed information.