Last Modified: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 7:26 PM
College football players have been warned. They’d best keep their heads about them this season.
More to the point, don’t lose your helmet.
It used to be the ultimate crowd pleaser — the burly tough guy, losing his helmet but still sticking his bare nose into the scrum with total disregard for that handsome mug.
Now, beginning this season, all that macho rite of passage will get you is a 15-yard penalty and a brief spot on the bench.
One of the major rule changes for college football this season is what happens when the helmets start flying.
It varies, but basically if a helmetless horseman has possession of the ball, the play is immediately blown dead.
If he doesn’t have the ball, he’s out of the play — and if he can’t resist sticking his nose in it, it’s a 15-yard penalty and he has to sit out a play to get his hat on straight.
Byron Boston, the Southland Conference’s coordinator of officials, thinks the new rule, an obvious reaction to the growing fear of football concussions, will be interesting.
For instance, if a defender who has lost his helmet is the last player who can make the tackle, he probably will do it, even though he’ll get flagged 15 yards for it.
If a player tries, for another example, to block a player with no helmet, it’s a 15-yard penalty on the blocker, assuming the bareheaded lad was not trying to make a play. If he was trying to make a play, it’s a penalty on both of them and both must sit out a play.
Say a defender has a chance to make a fumble recovery without his helmet on. The offense will keep the ball with 15 more yards tacked on.
If an offensive lineman loses his hat and still recovers a teammate’s fumble, his team will keep the ball — but 15 yards farther back after the penalty.
“The pressure is going to be on the equipment managers,” Boston said. “They’re really going to have to monitor it.”
And the players, too.
Boston said studies have shown that the wandering, wayward helmet is almost unique to the college game. It rarely comes up either in high school or the NFL.
“And it’s the same helmets,” Boston pointed out.
“Maybe they (high school, NFL) don’t tamper with them as much.”
Boston said that recently he watched over 800 high school plays on film at an officials clinic and didn’t see a single helmet come off.
“And yet we average seven or eight a game in the Southland,” he said, almost 300 for the season.
And the Southland average is about the norm for college ball.
College guys, he said, apparently like to take their helmets off more, sometimes letting some air of the inflatable parts for easier access.
He’s also noted more college players don’t adjust the chin strap according the helmet manual.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think maybe they think it looks good, looks cool.”
Not anymore. Not this year.