NCAA proposes rule changes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 21, 2008

A year or so ago I wrote about a lady named Sarah Thomas who officiates high school and college football. She did a very good job in the couple of games I watched her officiate, and that included a high school all-star game. I heard nothing but praise about Thomas for her work in at least one college football game.

Most people in the country, it seems, rate Mississippi at or near the bottom of the states in most every category, including sports officiating. How wrong this view can be was brought home last week with the news that a high school in Kansas had refused to let a female official work one of its basketball games.

It seems their religion takes a very dim view of a female holding any authority over boys. To their credit, the remaining members of that lady’s officiating crew refused to work that game. I do not know if the assigning group in Kansas took any sanctions against those officials, but I certainly hope not.

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There are annually a few rules changes proposed by the NCAA College Football Rules Committee. I have read a short list of those changes as outlined by Rogers Redding, who is the supervisor of football officials for the Southeastern Conference. Redding, the incoming chairman-editor of the NCAA Rules Committee, listed a couple of the more noticeable changes.

The NCAA appears ready to follow the National Football League rules regarding timing in a couple of ways. The college game will now have both a 25-second and a 40-second play-clock rule. Also, it seems that in 2008 the game clock will start when the ball is ready for play instead of on the snap after a runner goes out of bounds.

Personal foul rules will now be more restrictive against helmet-to-helmet blows, and the ‘close line’ tackle or block will be illegal. There was some comment about player conduct, but I do not know if unsportsmanlike conduct rules have been strengthened.

High school baseball has started in many areas of the state. I guess most smaller schools which have athletes still playing basketball will start a little later. High school baseball rules have changed slightly. In 2008, a fielder will no longer be able to block access to a base unless he has the ball in his possession.

Of a lesser note to the average fan, instead of remaining in the coach’s box being mandatory, the rule allows a player or coach to occupy the coach’s boxes while his (or her) team is at bat.

High school baseball is the fourth most popular high school boy’s sport. During the 2005-2006 school year, 470,671 boys played high school baseball. I am sure football and basketball were number one and two, but I really don’t know which sport ranked ahead of baseball for third place.

I notice that the 2008 Banquet of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame will be tonight. Alcorn State’s head football coach will be the featured speaker, and seven local senior student athletes will be honored with scholarships.

Several years ago the Miss-Lou Chapter began honoring outstanding local junior high student athletes, and at least one of those boys has gone on to win one of the senior scholarships.

And, That’s Official.

Al Graning can be reached by e-mail at