Sideline behavior a focus for ACC officials

Coaches will be penalized for entering field to argue calls

Sara D. Davis—
ACC Coordinator of Football Officiating

Coaches will need to be on their best behavior this season, because sideline antics could cost their team field position.At the ACC Kickoff’s officiating forum on Thursday, ACC supervisor of officials Dennis Hennigan highlighted the rules changes for the upcoming season.Sideline behaviorThe most significant change is a new rule aimed at keeping coaches off the field.Any coach—head coach or assistant—who enters the playing field to argue a call with an official will receive an immediate 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.Unlike in previous years, there will be no warnings or attempts to “walk the coach back” to the sideline. If a coach picks up two unsportsmanlike penalties in a game, it will result in his ejection.Coaches have been assured that they will not be penalized for leaving the sideline to call plays or signal for a time out.Length of gamesShortening the length of games will also be an emphasis this season, although there were no rules changes implemented to help accomplish this.Instead, officials will pay closer attention to make sure games start on time and that halftime doesn’t extend past the 20 minutes mandated by rule. Officials will be instructed to start the 20-minute halftime clock immediately, instead of waiting for the field to clear.Officials will also take control of restarting the game following commercial breaks, rather than leaving that in the hands of network producers and on-field production assistants. The change may result in fans watching at home missing a few plays coming back from breaks.Player safetyTwo minor changes were implemented to help with player safety. It’s now illegal for defensive players to “hurdle” the offensive line at the snap, in an effort to block a field goal or extra point attempt.Also, the definition of a horse-collar tackle was expanded to include grabbing a ball-carrier by the name-plate area on the back of his jersey.2016 statisticsHennigan also highlighted some statistics from the 2016 season to show the way the game is evolving.There were 183 plays per game last season, up from 178 the year before. Several games topped the 200-play barrier.Once again, false start was the most-often flagged penalty, with 20 percent of all penalties being for that infraction. Offensive holding produced 14 percent of flags and defensive pass interference 11.ACC officials called 18 targeting penalties, including two which were initiated by replay officials after review. Nationally, there was a targeting call once every six games. Replay review upheld 71 percent of the calls, down slightly from 74 percent in 2015.For the first time in memory, ACC road teams won more often than home teams. The home team won just 47 percent of conference games. Overall, the home team won 60 percent of the time in all games.