Monday, February 18, 2008

The New Facemask Rule

Although the Football Rules Committee's tinkering with clock rules received most of the attention last week, there was a surprising adjustment to the facemask penalty for 2008.

Gone is the five-yard penalty for an incidental grabbing of the facemask. Only a 15-yard penalty remains and although the exact wording of the new rule has yet to be released, it appears a facemask penalty will be called only when there is a pulling, twisting or turning of the head.

Deciding between a five and 15-yard penalty was often a judgment call and the new rule eliminates a gray area for officials. But how many facemask penalties could this involve? Marty at, the ultimate site for college football stats junkies, was able to give us a look at facemask penalties the past three seasons. The data is graphically displayed above, but the season-by-season breakdown and totals go like this:
  • In 2005, there were 188 five-yard facemask penalties (51.4%) called and 178 15 yarders (48.6%).
  • In 2006, there were 198 five yarders (56.3%) and 154 15 yarders (43.7%).
  • In 2007, there were 177 five yarders (50.3%) and 175 15 yarders (49.7%).
  • Three-season totals: 1070 facemask penalties called, 563 (52.6%) were five yarders and 507 were 15 yarders (47.4%).
Using these numbers as a guideline, the expected number of facemask penalties will be reduced by more than 50% in 2008. But total penalty yards will also increase. Using 2007 as an example, Marty says 1770 more penalty yards would have been called in the 792 games that were played. Although on average that is only 2.23 extra penalty yards a game, there will be some games that get rather chippy and an extra facemask penalty or two could make a big impact.


Taylor said...

"Deciding between a five and 15-yard penalty was often a judgment call and the new rule eliminates a gray area for officials."

If I understand the new rule correctly, then it does not eliminate the judgment call. It just shifts it to whether or not to call the penalty in the first place, rather than which version of the penalty it should be.

Anonymous said...

that is really a terrible chart. upon first glance 2006 looks like a 90/10 split between the 5 and 15 yarders. if you're going to make a bar graph, make it legible. sheesh.

Knute Bryant said...

i think this won't be a good thing in the end. Judgment Calls that used to go the way of a 5 yarder will not be dropped as often as we'd like to think. I just think that we'll see an increase in the 15 yard variety as ones that would have been meh... "5 yarder just to be safe" last year will now be flagged as a 15 yarder. because a ref doesn't want to let one like that slide.

i think the jury will be out on this till we see it in action

noah said...

Agreed with anonymous. I didn't even notice it wasn't a 90/10 split until he pointed it out. Might want to improve the scale on that graph.