The NCAA's new helmet rule, which requires players to come off the field for a play every time their helmet comes off, has become quite a controversial issue through the first couple weeks of the season.
On Tuesday, Missouri was the latest team to complain about the rule after quarterback James Franklin had to miss two plays because his helmet came off while he was at the bottom of a pile.
Coach Gary Pinkel played coy about how his starting quarterback's helmet ended up rolling around on the field.
"I don't know how it got off. I'm sure our players didn't take it off. I'm sure he didn't take it off," Pinkel said. "And so, it just happened."
But Franklin said the first time his hat popped off it was due to his shoulder pads being pushed up. The second time was caused by a defender ripping it off.
"So it's critical, though," Pinkel said. "Obviously, the helmet's getting ripped off in piles. All of a sudden, you put your backup quarterback in."
Pinkel said during Wednesday's SEC teleconference that Missouri's helmets needed to have better straps, but it's clear that defenders — not just those who are playing against Missouri, but across the country — are trying to use the NCAA's new helmet rule to their advantage.
When it was adopted, the intent of the helmet rule was spot on. According to the NCAA, more than two helmets per game were coming off and it was a safety concern. The rule was not meant to punish players, but rather protect them. However, the NCAA probably didn't foresee defenses taking advantage of the rule. While players don't have to come off the field if their helmets are intentionally knocked by an opposing players, such as a facemask, officials need to be more aware of players intentionally ripping off helmets in piles.
Obviously, lots of stuff goes on in those piles — stuff we can't even mention — and it's difficult to keep track of all of the misdeeds. Still, the rule should be about safety and not advantage.
Alabama coach Nick Saban told USA Today that he's still a proponent of the rule even though two of his players lost their helmets during the season opener against Michigan and indicated that maybe the helmets themselves were the problem.
"I think it's a good rule," Saban said. "I hate to see players penalized, but I also think the players have to be responsible to wear their helmet properly."
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