NCAA approves rule aimed at decreasing kickoff returns

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 24: Kevin Stepherson #29 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a tuchdown pass in front of Jeremy McDuffie #9 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half at Notre Dame Stadium on September 24, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — A fair catch on a kickoff received inside the 25-yard line will result in a touchback next season after a proposed rule change was approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel.

The NCAA announced Friday the adoption of several rule changes , including changes aimed at moving games along.

The most notable involved kickoffs, which both college and professional football rule-makers acknowledge produce an inordinate number of injuries. In the hopes of creating fewer returns and more touchbacks, kickoffs were moved from the 30-yard line to the 35 in 2012 and the starting position after a touchback was moved up from the 20 to the 25.

Since then a popular strategy has developed where teams instruct kickers to kickoff high and often toward the sideline, short of the end zone, in an effort to pin the returner inside the 25. Now those kicks can be fair caught and instead of the ball being placed at the spot of the catch, it will be placed at the 25.

Other changes approved include a package of rules regarding blocking below the waist.

Regarding pace of play the panel approved two proposals:

— After a touchdown, the play clock will be set at 40 seconds to expedite the extra point or 2-point conversion attempt.

— Following a kickoff, the play clock will be set to 40 seconds to restart play more quickly.

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