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Helmet communications, two-minute timeout among college football changes proposed by NCAA rules committee

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College football is on track for a rules modernization in 2024 after the NCAA Football Rules Committee recommended tweaks on Friday that will bring the sport more closely into alignment with the NFL. The approval of helmet communications, in-game use of tablet technology and a two-minute timeout headlined the recommended measures, which must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. That group will meet to finalize the process on April 18.

NFL quarterbacks have talked with coaches through helmet communications systems for 30 years, and defensive players have done so since 2008. While the NCAA has considered adopting the technology in the past, it wasn’t until the 2023 Bowl Season that in-game experimentation with helmet communications began.

Under the proposal outlined by the rules committee, coach-to-player communications would be allowed to a single player on each team who would be identified by a green dot worn on their helmet. The communications would be turned off at the snap or with 15 seconds left on the play clock, depending which occurs first.

The move comes after a sign-stealing scandal in 2023 engulfed Michigan on its march to the national title. Implementing in-helmet communications will reduce the need for intricate signing strategies as coaches seek to communicate play calls to their players on the field.

A two-minute warning has long been part of the NFL fabric in both halves, serving essentially as a free timeout for teams seeking to stop the clock on defense or to make a final push for points on offense.

“The two-minute timeout will allow all end-of-half and end-of-game timing rules to be simplified and synch up with this timeout,” said Steve Shaw, secretary-rules editor said in the NCAA’s announcement. “This will also help broadcast partners to avoid back-to-back media timeouts.”

Other measures recommended by the rules committee include:

  • Warnings for uniforms violations followed by a timeout being charged upon subsequent offenses from any member of that team. Violating teams that are out of timeouts would be assessed a 5-yard penalty.
  • Teams could use 18 tablets between the coaching booth, sideline and locker room for the purpose of viewing in-game video only.
  • Implementation of 15-yard horse-collar tackle penalties within the tackle box.

While the measures still need final approval, it’s widely expected that the measures will go unopposed. In fact, the ACC already approved helmet communications and tablet usage last month allowing programs the chance to begin using the new tools during spring practice. 

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