NCAA football bans wedge blocks, eye black with messages

Oklahoman Modified: April 16, 2010 at 9:25 am •  Published: April 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eye black with messages and wedge blocks will be banned from college football this fall, and taunting in the field of play will start costing teams points in 2011.

On Thursday, the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the three rules changes.

One year after the NFL banned wedge blocking on kickoffs because of safety concerns, the NCAA followed the lead. The new rule says that when the team receiving a kickoff has more than two players standing within two yards of one another, shoulder to shoulder, it will be assessed a 15-yard penalty — even if there is no contact between the teams.

The reason: NCAA studies have shown that 20 percent of all injuries occurring on kickoffs result in concussions.

"Everybody is looking to make sure we have a safe environment for the players," said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "On kickoffs, you have a lot of steam on both sides and you usually have what is called a 'wedge buster.' This will eliminate some of that."

The hope is it will reduce concussions, an issue that has received greater attention over the past year.

The NCAA deemed it so important that it made a rare rules change in an off-year of the normal 2-year process.

Texas coach Mack Brown and Indiana coach Bill Lynch agreed that it was time to change the rules to help players from the big collisions on kickoffs.

"Studies are showing that we are having more concussions across the country on kickoffs then in the past so it makes sense to try to find a way to address that," Brown said Thursday. "But we all need to look at the meaning of a wedge block and clearly define it. If we have a clear set of rules on that and officials can call it consistently, we can prepare our players differently on kickoff return blocking and hopefully help better protect our kids."

But it's the taunting rule that will create the biggest buzz.

Currently, players who are penalized for taunting on their way to the end zone draw a 15-yard penalty on the extra point attempt, 2-point conversion attempt or the ensuing kickoff.