The Ivy League on Wednesday announced an experimental rule for the 2016–17 football season that will move back kickoffs and touchbacks, an attempt at reducing the number of concussions in the sport.
The new rule will move kickoffs from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line and touchbacks from the 25-yard line to the 20-yard line. Kickoff returns account for 23.4 percent of concussions in football games, even though they represent only 5.8 percent of overall plays. After this trial season, Ivy League administrators will evaluate the concussion and kickoff return data before deciding whether to continue the new policy.
“This experimental rule change is another example of The Ivy League leading the nation in concussion prevention,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said in a statement. “Our data showed us that kickoffs result in a disproportionate number of concussions and this rule will allow us to assess whether limiting kickoff returns will reduce the incidence of concussions.”
A review of concussions, which the league started in 2013, sparked the idea for the new rule. Data from this study “prompted discussion of kickoffs,” and Ivy League head football coaches suggested the new experimental rule, according to a Wednesday news release.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association granted the league’s request for the new rule, though it will only apply to the Ancient Eight conference games.
“As coaches it is our job to improve the game of football and make it safer for our young men who play it,” Yale head football coach Tony Reno said. “We are proud to join the other schools in the Ivy League as we work to grow the great game of college football.”
Moving back kickoffs and touchbacks is the second initiative the Ivy League has taken this year to decrease the number of concussions in football. In the spring, the league banned full-contact hitting during practices in the regular season, a decision approved by all eight Ivy League head coaches. That provision is also set to begin in the 2016–17 season.
In 2011, the National Football League also moved back its kickoff line, going from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. And earlier this year, the NFL also approved a measure that would move the touchback from the 20- to the 25-yard line for touchbacks occurring after free kicks.