The American Football Coaches Association has asked the NCAA rules committee to take up the issue of players faking injuries when it meets next month.
The AFCA Ethics Committee voted in January to recommend that the NCAA rules committee address the practice, which has caused tension within the sport for years. Rather than use a timeout, defensive players will often fake an injury in order to stop the clock and slow the momentum of the opposing offense.
“Our Ethics Committee, which suggests rules changes to the NCAA, said by unanimous consent that this has got to stop,” said AFCA Executive Director Todd Berry. “So they asked the Rules Committee to do something about it. It’s bad for football.”
The current rule, which doesn’t directly address the practice of faking injuries, says that any time the clock is stopped for an injury, the injured player is required to go to the sideline and sit out only one snap before he’s eligible to return.
“Rules need to have teeth,” Berry said. “And if there’s no teeth, there’s no impact.”
Last year, the NCAA rules committee met in person and spent multiple days discussing the topic of faking injuries. Steve Shaw, who serves as the secretary-rules editor of the NCAA football rules committee in addition to his role as national coordinator of officials, described the debate as vigorous at the time.
Hoping to avoid a rule that would inevitably punish legitimate injuries as well as fake ones, the rules committee decided to let it be known among coaches and administrators that it was prepared to act if those in the sport didn’t move to stop the practice of faking injuries immediately. A tape of questionable injuries were sent to all FBS programs as a quasi warning.
“We did not eliminate the feigning injuries,” Shaw said. “Even if you just watched the bowl season you saw some peculiar actions.”
Berry said that while they saw some decline in the number of questionable injuries, it wasn’t nearly enough, adding that “any of it is bad.”
“It’s time,” Berry said. “… There needs to be a harsh deterrent.”
What that exact deterrent is remains to be seen. One potential option, Berry said, would require an injured player to miss the remainder of the series. Coaches would be able to use a timeout in order to “buy” that player back into the game right away.
The NCAA rules committee is expected to meet virtually in early March.
“We’ll have heavy debate,” Shaw said, “and see where that goes.”