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July 17, 2018

Steve Shaw

Atlanta, Georgia

STEVE SHAW: Thank you for that introduction. As he said, my job is Coordinator of Officials for the Southeastern Conference. But I must state it's an honor, not a job. It's an honor to be Coordinator of Officials in the SEC and be involved in our game. And our officials feel the same way. It's an honor to be on the field every week. Something that we cherish and work hard to be good at.

Now, that said, it's great to be with you in Atlanta, Georgia. We're in the shadow of Mercedes-Benz Stadium where we'll crown a champion in just a few short months. That's hard to believe. It's hard to also believe we're 44 days to kickoff.

And to add to the urgency, we're nine days away from our football officials reporting to Birmingham to begin our fall clinic. So that's always a time where the pace quickens.

And in fact, though, this is not the beginning of our preparation. We've been preparing all through the spring, through the summer. And our work now has become a season long thing. So this is the point where I usually talk about all of the clinics and different sessions that we have. So rather than do that, we have some video from one of our eight spring clinics.

So, Cole, would you run that video?

(Video playing.)

STEVE SHAW: So I want to say thank you to Vanderbilt and SEC Network for the video. So now we're going to transition into our rule changes for 2018, and let me intro in by saying this: We had a number of changes last year, a lot of discussion here.

One was about keeping the game moving, and we were really successful there. Work with halftime and some of our ball mechanics and with our TV partners, we cut six minutes out of our game, which was pretty impressive, without taking plays out of the game. As you see, we'll try to continue that.

Coaches' sideline behavior. I think everybody was buzzing about that. The deal where now if a coach comes onto the field to complain about an officiating decision, it was an automatic 15-yard penalty. And really the coaches cleaned up the sidelines. That was really what we were trying to strive for, and that really worked well.

And replay, as we continue collaborative replay, the consistency there, very solid. We actually reduced the time in replay. We were a minute 16 on average. And just FYI, there's about 2.1 replays per game and 0.96, right at one, overturns a game. So we're keeping the game moving even in replay.

So now as we work into our rule changes for this year, and I want to talk a little bit about the rule change process. As you can see from the slide back there, we're on a two-year cycle. This is the on year, so not only can we make changes around player safety, but certainly strategy of the game and what we do there. So this is an on year, and we're going to have a number of changes we'll work through very quickly.

So the first we're going to talk where is our kneepads and pants. So this is actually a change from 2017. I really want our officials worried more about offensive and defensive pass interference in working the game, but one of the rules says now that the kneepads and the pants must cover the knee.

So this is something we've talked to our coaches and players about as we've gone through the spring, and this is something that is going to be, you know, mandated. And what we say is they have to cover the knee.

So what happens if they don't? Then the player must leave the game. It's almost like helmet off. They have to stay out one play. And if they get it corrected, they can come back in.

Now, a coach can call time-out. And if he calls time-out, he can buy them back into the game, assuming they correct the issue. This is one that's going to be hopefully handled up front in week one, and then we won't have to deal with it.

We've actually sent a poster. You're going to see it here. And the poster -- to each of the schools to post in their locker room. The coaches talk about that. And what we're looking at is just getting the knees covered. It's a player safety issue, and we want to take care of that.

Now, from on-field issues, probably the one that's gotten the most talk about is our fair catch on a free kick. So now -- and let me preface this by this is a player safety rule as well. And you say why is this player safety? Because what we've seen on touchback plays, plays that result in a touchback, there's still blocking going on, but the injury rate on kickoffs comes down significantly. We made a few changes a few years ago to incent touchbacks, and now we're taking it a step further.

Now, if you have a kickoff, a free kick, so it can be a kick after a safety as well, but if you have a kickoff and the receiving team calls for and completes a fair catch behind their 25-yard line, the ball will belong to them on the 25-yard line.

So this is an opportunity where if there's a sky kick into the corner or whatever, the receiving team -- before they had to run it back; now they can opt to take what looks like a touchback if they complete a fair catch, take the ball on the 25.

And there's some notes in here around, as you all know, on touchbacks, you can relocate the ball. So the coach has to do that before the play clock hits 25 seconds. Why have that important? So if you go to the next change, this is around keeping the game moving.

Again, what the Rules Committee charge is: How do we keep the game moving? How do we take dead time out of the game without taking plays away? So now we're going to use a 40-second play clock after touchdowns and after kickoffs.

Basically what does that look like? On a play that ends in a touchdown, once the ball is dead and we clearly have a touchdown, then, like most of the plays in the game, we'll go straight to a 40-second play clock. Again, the coach can relocate the ball if he lets us know before the clock hits 25. But once it hits 25, then we'll continue to play.

The other thing, probably you guys know this, on touchdowns, we wait for replay to confirm. We review -- every play is reviewed, but scoring plays specifically. And our referee, he'll stand between the snapper and the holder, and until he gets a confirmation from replay, he'll hold it. So if there was a chance that the play clock, which is going to be running, gets below 25, you'll see him simply give this signal to pump it back up to 25 once he gets the confirmation to move out.

Similarly, now, after a kickoff, we're going to a 40-second play clock. The coaches supported both of these because this is routine, this is standard. There's other times when you can do this, but a lot of times you'll go to a media time-out. Here, after a touchdown to the extra point and after a kickoff to the first play, usually there's no media time-out, so the coaches know we got to get our teams ready. So this will help expedite those plays.

Now, working forward, another change, I recognize when we talk about this, everybody kind of zones out on blocking below the waist. But this is a significant change this year, and it's a player safety change as well. Let me hit the rule, and then we'll look at video on this. Probably a lot easier to explain in the video. But there's no change to the linemen that are what we call in the tackle box on the line of scrimmage. They can block below the waist from any direction. They can't clip, but from any direction. But now every other player must block from the front. They have to direct their block from the front. The reason for that being that the player can defend themselves if they see it coming and it's a safer block.

So with that said, there's three exceptions, and the first is the most important, and that is now, on a scrimmage play, the offense can no longer block below the waist five yards or beyond down field. And you say why is that? Once the play gets in open field, it looks like an interception return, it looks like a kick, which we don't allow blocking below the waist.

What we're doing is now anything five yards or beyond, no blocking below the waist, really, for either team. So this will be a player safety thing. This still allows option teams, if you have a corner coming up and run support, you can still block low. Bubble screens you can still block low. But that is a significant change.

The other two we still have the crack back, so if a player is outside of the tackle box either in initial alignment or arcs out any time outside the tackle box, they can't block back toward the original position of the ball low, and then once the ball leaves the tackle box, leaves the zone, no player can block -- we call it peel-back blocks -- block back toward their own end zone app.

So I want to illustrate this first play. You see the -- you know, every team has a different term, but the H-back, or No. 86, he's almost right behind the upright. He's catching a piece of the tackle box. So he is allowed to black toward the original position of the ball, but it must be from the front.

Let's roll this. Last year this was a legal block. Run that back so everybody can see it. This is a dangerous block. Now this is illegal. That's not from the front. Even though that player is in the tackle box, he must block from the front. The coaches all agree, this is a dangerous play, and we want to take this type of play out of the game. Now, he can still block high.

We'll look at this. If you look at the running back, he's set with the quarterback there, here's an illustration of now going down field more than five yards and blocking low. So now that will be a foul. They will know once they've gone five yards, they cannot block low. Most people don't know this, but the defense can block low, within five yards, either side of the line of scrimmage. You look at the corner, you can see them right there, at about the 45. Maybe easier to see from the end zone. You see 75 is coming to block him, and then he cuts low. Now, because that's not within five yards of the line, that would be an illegal block.

So a lot of changes on blocking below the waist. Believe it or not, the rule is significantly simpler to understand and certainly to coach from our players. A lot of change there in blocking below the waist.

Another change is around leaping, and we've really changed some of the language. But it's very straightforward. The language now says -- so let's start with extra points and field goals.

If you run forward and leap in an attempt to block the kick, then you cannot get into the plane above the frame. So the frame of a player, shoulder width, so imagine a plane above that. If you leap, run forward and leap into that plane, it's a foul. So if you run forward and leap and don't get in that, it's okay. And if you're lined up within one yard of the line of scrimmage, then you can leap, you can do whatever. It's that running forward that's the dangerous play.

So let's look at a couple plays on this. Now, this is a play we all remember. This really got this dialogue started. Pretty incredible play. And the question was: Was this a foul or not? Now, under our rule, clearly he goes over the frame of the blocker, you know, and he's in the plane above the frame. So, this would be a foul. Whether he makes contact or not.

And you say, gosh, that was a great play. Here's what normally happens. If you watch this player back, running forward, he's going to go down straight on his head. That's typically what happens. This is a player safety issue, not only to the person blocking him, don't want to get kicked in the head, but certainly coming down head first. So that would be a foul.

Here's one where the change now allows this where these two guys run forward, they never get in the plane of anybody, make a block here, that's a great play and not a dangerous play. That's allowed moving forward.

And then we had to dig through, but we found a play. Here you see a lineman on the defense as we run it. He's lined up within a yard, and there he is, he leaps over that. That's a pretty incredible play. That's a legal play. Because 86 there is lined up within a yard of the line of scrimmage, and then he's able to leap over that guy. So if you're within a yard in a stationary position, no problem. And so that's where we are.

And then we have a couple plays we want to look at on punts, we'll go to those, and where this same concept applies in what we call leaping the shield. So if we can run those on the punts. So here's a play. You're going to see a player, right there, leaping over the shield and then is going to come down. And that's a foul. That's a safety factor.

But here's a play where we allow them to leap through the shield, and I think we get a good ground-level view. You're going to look at 19 right here. If you leap through the shield that's not a foul. That's what we have around leaping. Again, this is more around player safety and protecting the guys rushing in.

Now, we're also adding a ten-second runoff on instant replay. And this is one where you got to kind of stay with me for a second. So if we have a replay review and it results in the on-field ruling being reversed, okay, so we have an overturn, and the correct ruling, the clock would have never stopped. And we're inside of a minute. Okay? Then, we're going to reset the clock to where the ball's declared dead and then have a ten-second runoff. I know that's a lot. It's a lot easier to look at a play. So let's look at a play.

Here's a play that illustrates this. Now, before we run it, let me say one thing also. Either team can avoid the runoff if they use a time-out. So here's a play, we got 50 seconds left in the game. We're going to watch the quarterback. He's going to sprint out. He's going to be under heavy duress, he's going to throw a pass, intercepted. Cole's good at running this, get him on down there. Intercepted, return back for a touchdown.

But if you look at replay, we're going to come in and look at this play, and there you see -- I think you'd all agree -- right there, knee is down before that ball is released.

So replay is going to come in and overturn this for the quarterback being down. Now we go back to the line shot. You see his knee's down. We know from the other shot his knee is down. We'll reset the clock to 47 seconds, that's when the ball would be declared dead, and then we're going to apply a ten-second runoff. We reset it to 47, and then a ten-second runoff would put it at 37.

Now, point of note. If you look, the offense here has a time-out. If they wanted to avoid it, they can take one of their time-outs and we'd have the clock at 47 seconds.

Ten-second runoff rules get a little complex. But this is really a good change, I think, from an equity standpoint.

The next thing, we're not really going to talk about this a lot, there's a lot of buzz about coaches headsets. Now there's a limit in number. You can read the limits. This is still not final approval. This really has come from Football Oversight, and Prop meets on July 25th. So this rule will be final then, and we'll communicate it out at that time.

And then there are a number of other changes that we want to look at. The field now, if a corporate entity or an individual has bought naming rights to the stadium, they can actually have their corporate logo in two spots, the two flanking locations. Before they could only put block letters. They can actually have their corporate logo.

Field goal penalty enforcement now is just like the extra point. Probably most of you thought it was all the same. But if you have a personal foul on the defense or an unsportsmanlike conduct on a successful field goal, they can keep the points and have the penalty enforced on the kickoff. Or they can take the points off the board and enforce it. Field goals didn't allow the carryover opportunity like extra points; now they are all the same.

You can kind of look at the others. I do want to make a comment about instant replay. We'll continue to evolve and work hard in our collaborative replay and keep the game moving. We recognize everybody wants the correct answer, but they want it quickly. And we've got some steps to hopefully continue to improve that.

And also I would be remiss in my last minute if I didn't talk about targeting. If you noticed on these charts, there was no rule change on targeting. So we're really being consistent year to year. It is our number one priority as officials, and players and coaches recognize it, it's so important to our game. So our officials will stay on point there.

Targeting fouls went up last year, but really over the years we've added more defenseless players. We've added other issues, replay can come in. Now what we want to do consistently, year over year, make no change, stay as our top priority, but see how that works out.

That's our changes in a nutshell for this year. As officials, we're excited about getting the season started. And my commitment to you: That in 44 days, our guys will be ready to go. So I appreciate your time.

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