Big 12’s new coordinator of officials made his debut at the Big 12 Media Days in Frisco, Texas.
Greg Burks, who replaced Walt Anderson in June, spoke to reporters Tuesday about the new rule changes that were implemented over the offseason. Burks was a referee for the first CFP National Championship, while serving as an official for the Big 12 from 1996-2014.
Burks discussed the notable rule changes for the upcoming college football season.
This season, officials will focus more on uniform requirements. Knees must now be fully covered by knee pads, and they must be completely covered by the pants. Jerseys must reach down into the pants and T-shirts worn under the jersey must match the color of the jersey or be tucked in.
Burks anticipates that this will be called out more frequently early in the season.
“Over the last few years, the spectrum has moved toward leniency,” Burks said. “This year, players will have to be legally equipped, and where you're going to see that play out the most, I think, in the first couple of weeks is that knees have to be covered this year.”
New clock rules are now in place in attempt to speed up the game. A 40-second play clock on a point-after attempt starts immediately following a touchdown and it applies after any free kick.
In the past, a referee has scanned the field and made sure everything was set before starting the clock at 25 seconds. According to Burks, this new rule is to keep things consistent with the clock rules on any regular play from scrimmage.
“We spend a lot of time trying to make the game move as expediently as we can,” Burks said. “Meaning that we want the game to be played in three hours, 3:15, 3:30 at the max. We want to do that without taking plays out of the game.”
The league also added a 10-second runoff if the clock is stopped for a replay within the final minute of a half, assuming the play would not have resulted in a clock stoppage.
Players may now take a fair catch on a kickoff inside the 25-yard line and have the ball placed at the 25 to begin the drive. This rule was discussed by league coaches during spring camp, but Burks believes it will improve player safety without removing that phase of the game.
“All of the data that we have says that we have more injuries on kickoffs because of the distance that players are running,” Burks said. “The Rules Committee is trying to figure out how to write the rules so we still have balance in the game without doing away with kickoffs and provide safety for the receiving team.”
In addition, teams will not be required to try a point-after attempt on a touchdown scored after time has expired.
There are also new rules for blocking below the waist this season. A lineman can still block below the waist within the tackle box from any direction, as long as the ball is still within the tackle box. Everyone else can only block below the waist if the player being blocked is facing the blocking player.
Players may not block below the waist when the block occurs five yards or more beyond the neutral zone, which is an important change from last season when offensive players could block below the waist anywhere on the field.
“This is the hardest rule to enforce for officials without question in the game,” Burks said. “I would like to say you can have the same play occur in three separate situations and have three different rulings.”