New Rules ?

The NFL owners have agreed to three new rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee at the owners’ annual meeting in Orlando.  They are:

  1. Banning the “hip-drop tackle”:  I mentioned this last week; it is a “player safety motivated” rule that requires a very complicated definition of what is and what is not a hip-drop tackle.  The NFLPA opposes the change; I suspect defensive players also oppose the change.  Some fans have expressed disapproval asserting that this is another step toward transforming the NFL into a touch-football league.  I will reserve judgment until I see how and if the rule is called consistently and logically.
  2. A new kickoff rule:  This is an adaptation of the rule used by the XFL, and it is more complicated to explain than I prefer to do here. has already declared that it will have a “profound impact in 2024.”  If you Google “new NFL kickoff rule” you will find dozens of reports that describe the new procedure.  It was passed as a “one-year trial” and will be reviewed prior to the 2025 season.  Once again, I will reserve judgment until I see what it is and what it does.
  3. An added coach’s challenge:  If a coach challenges a call during the game and his challenge is upheld, that team will get a third challenge in the game.  No longer must a team be right on both challenges that it makes to earn a third challenge; now, one correct challenge is sufficient.  I do NOT like this change.  Watching officials look at monitors showing dozens of replays so they can “get it right” is less enticing than a root canal on your birthday.  Making it easier for teams to challenge extra calls by the officials does not enhance the viewing product.

Moving on …  I have said here multiple times that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the single best sporting event held every year.  I have loved college basketball for more than 65 years.  And this morning I feel like the proverbial old codger sitting on my porch yelling at people to get off my damned lawn.  This year’s tournament is far less interesting than in previous years.  Before anyone jumps down my throat here:

  • Oakland beating Kentucky was a big surprise and super-exciting – – unless you are a Kentucky alum or a member of John Calipari’s family.
  • Yale’s win over Auburn – – a team I picked to go to the Final Four – – was an exciting and surprising game.
  • Other than those two games, there have been a lot of “not-much-doubt games” and “blatant mismatch games”.

Look, the “Cinderella team” for 2024 is the 11th seeded North Carolina State TEAM who just happens to have won the ACC Tournament – – an event only slightly less prestigious than March Madness itself.  It seems to me that one of two situations obtain here:

  1. The Selection Committee tried to get it right but did not.  They gave tournament slots to 8 teams from the SEC and 6 teams from the Big-10.  Remember, this is basketball and not football.  Of those 14 teams only 4 teams are still involved.
  2. College basketball has become polarized to the point where the “haves” are just too much for the “have nots”.  The reputations of teams’ past are not of much current value today.  Eight teams earned seedings of #1 or #2 in their bracket; all eight of those teams are still playing.

And in that environment, the calls to expand the tournament field grow louder.  How is that supposed to generate more exciting games?  This year the Atlantic Sun Conference sent Stetson to the tournament where they were destroyed by UConn.  That game was not in doubt from the start, and it was uninteresting to watch after about the first five minutes.  So maybe expanding the tournament might add a second team from the “little guy” Atlantic Sun Conference such as Austin Peay?  Pardon me while I feign interest in the possibility.

Or maybe the tournament would be “kicked up a notch” [Hat tip to Emeril Lagasse] with the addition of a ninth team from the SEC?  If you believe that you probably also believe that a dog chases its tail in order to make ends meet.

The NCAA has a model in its face demonstrating that more is not always better.  That would be the college football bowl system; there were 41 of them last year if my count is correct.  More college football teams (82) out of eligible teams for bowl games (132) play in bowl games than the 68 March Madness teams.  And there are – – theoretically – – 355 teams eligible for March Madness.  How many of the bowl games not related to the CFP or the ones played on New Year’s Day are exciting/enticing events and how many might even achieve “marginally interesting status”?   Here is a harsh reality:

  • More games do not equal more good games!

So, let me do some math here and offer a suggestion that will both please the folks in charge of the “Power Conferences” and at the same time ruin March Madness:

  • Keep the field at 68 teams!
  • The SEC will have 16 teams as of next year + The Big-10 will have 18 teams as of next year + The ACC will have 18 teams as of next year + The Big 12 will have 16 teams as of next year = 68 teams.

No more bitching and moaning about the Selection Committee; no more teams from conferences no one has ever heard of; no more teams from Nowheresville.  Just teams everyone has heard of before – – and it would be the death rattle for March Madness which is an event best left alone.

Finally, let me close today with these words from my favorite curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken:

“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………