New 'lost helmet' rule will create gray-area challenge for officials, coaches, players

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins loses his helmet while being tackled after making a catch downfield during the Tigers' game against North Carolina.

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins loses his helmet while being tackled after making a catch downfield during the Tigers' game against North Carolina.

A new NCAA rule designed to cut down on the risk of serious injuries when football players lose their helmets in the course of play will create a multitude of gray-area implications for officials, coaches and players.

Conference supervisor of officials Doug Rhoads spent considerable time this week at the ACC’s annual spring meetings at Amelia Island, Fla., explaining the various facets of the new rule to coaches.

The rule can be broken down into three basic parts:

1. If a player’s helmet comes off during live play, he must leave the game for at least one play.

2. When a ball-carrier’s helmet comes off, the play is immediately whistled dead.

3. If a player who is not carrying the ball loses his helmet, he must immediate cease participation in the play (no tackling, blocking, etc.). Officials are given some ‘gray area’ jurisdiction over the time when the helmet is lost and a player stops participation. ‘Prolonged’ continued participation is punishable by a 15-yard penalty.

In addition, special provisions are made when situations in which a helmet is lost within the final minute of either half.

As explained by ESPN:

“With less than 1 minute remaining in either half, if the ball carrier's helmet comes off, and that is the only reason the play is being whistled dead, there is also a 10-second runoff. If a team has a timeout remaining, the coach can elect to use the timeout instead of running 10 seconds off the clock. But the player must still leave the field for one play, unless his helmet comes off as the result of a foul.

“Here is your ultimate nightmare hypothetical: Let's say 9 seconds are left in a game, and your team is driving. The ball carrier's helmet comes off, and the play is whistled dead. Your team has no timeouts left. Officials must announce the game is over by rule.”

Some other items discussed, or clarified, during the ACC meetings:

- Once Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the league, the ACC basketball tournaments – men and women – will move to a 14-team format, Wednesday through Sunday.

- In football, ACC expansion will mean that teams in the Atlantic Division will play five conference home games in ‘odd’ numbered years, while Coastal Division teams will play five home games in even years. As previously announced, Syracuse will be part of the Atlantic Division and Pittsburgh will be in the Coastal Division.

Finally, Clemson Board of Trustees chairman David Wilkins told The Post and Courier earlier this week that Clemson has not been in contact with the Big 12 about a possible change of affiliation, and that the school is committed to its ACC membership.

“Have there been any kind of overtures by the Big 12 to Clemson? I can tell you unequivocally ‘no’ based upon the knowledge I have,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins also indication that he has a positive first impression of the ACC’s new $3.6 billion television package with ESPN.

“It’s a substantial additional amount of money,” Wilkins told The Post and Courier. “My initial impression is very positive. I know there are some specific concerns. I’ve asked for a full briefing.”

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