Greg Schiano's Kickoff Idea Takes Spotlight Again As the NCAA Mulls Over New Proposal

By Johnny Ginter on March 10, 2018 at 2:36 pm
Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano

We first heard about Greg Schiano's kickoff proposal all the way back in 2011, when he was still the head coach at Rutgers:

This is Schiano’s plan: Replace all kickoffs with a punting situation, including after the opening coin toss and to start the second half. So, as an example, when Team A scores a touchdown, it immediately gets the ball back on a fourth and 15 from its own 30-yard line.

It can punt it back to Team B — the most likely outcome and a safer play since the bigger collisions usually happen on kickoffs.

Or it can line up and go for the first down, essentially replacing an onside kick with an offensive play that would require more skill than luck.

It's a radical idea, one that would change the game quite a bit, and also the kind of proposal that football at all levels may start taking a serious look at to keep the game viable as more and more people start to come to grips with the sort of health risks the sport creates.

In fact, Schiano's proposal was borne out of the catastrophic injury to Rutgers player Eric LeGrand, who himself was hurt on a kickoff play. You can listen to him further explain his proposal here (during a press conference while he was the head coach at Tampa Bay).

What's interesting is that although Schiano's idea goes back several years, it's starting to get new attention in part because of a proposed rule change to NCAA football that would essentially extend the end zone on kickoffs to the 25 yard line; in other words, any fair catch inside the 25 would result in the receiving team starting with the ball on their 25 yard line.

This would probably infuriate Urban Meyer, whose fondness for coffin-cornering kickoffs is rivaled only by his fury at watching attempts at said kickoffs go out of bounds.

We'll find out in early April if the NCAA decides to go ahead with this change, although some, like's Andy Staples, note that the new rule might not actually do much to change the overall safety of kickoffs. Staples notes that Schiano's proposal, which does away with kickoffs entirely, would accomplish the real goal of what people are moving towards in football:

Switching to a scrimmage punt in that situation would actually be safer. The return rate on punts already is at the level committee members are seeking. If 42.4% of kickoffs went for touchbacks last year, that means more than 57% were returned. (A small fraction went out of bounds and were neither returned nor downed for a touchback.) This rule change likely will bring that number below 50%. It might even get it below 40%. But teams only returned 26.9% of punts last season.

Whether or not this new kickoff rule is imposed, both Greg Schiano and Urban Meyer should weigh in once again on Schiano's idea, not just because it's an excellent one, but because it's part of an ongoing larger conversation about a sport that is starting to recognize the need to evolve as concerns about player safety and the long term stability of football become more prominent in the public eye.

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