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NCAA Dismisses College Football Fake Injury Rule Change In Stunning Decision

In a stunning announcement made on Friday, the NCAA will not be addressing one of the most controversial topics of the college football season.

According to a report from 247 Sports’ Robbie Weinstein, “the NCAA announced on Friday that it will not add rules for the 2022 season that would give game officials the ability to penalize teams that it deems to be faking injuries during games. Although the NCAA will allow programs to report alleged fake injuries, it did not mention any specific penalty or sanction that could be imposed.”

The NCAA’s report provides more clarity as to why this decision was made:

“The committee considered several in-game options to address this, including altering the injury timeout rule to remove the injured student-athlete for more than one play, which is the current rule. This concept was debated at length, but the committee was concerned with the additional issues that could be created and did not want to encourage players to continue to participate when injured.”

In late January, the National Director of Officials, Steve Shaw, said in an interview that injury faking concerns would be a “big topic” at the March 1 rules committee meeting. And now, with the update that was given on Friday, it looks like the NCAA will not be adding any new changes in that area.

Stanford head coach David Shaw, who is also a rules committee chairman, also spoke on the decision in the report.

“It is very difficult to legislate ethics, particularly when an injury timeout is being used to gain an advantage,” David Shaw said via the NCAA report. “The small number of teams that seem to use these tactics should be addressed directly.”

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At reoccurring times throughout the 2021-2022 season, teams across college football increasingly used a loophole in the system to buy time on defense. Teams exposed the fact that there is no limit or penalty to a player going down with an injury. While safety is always a concern, teams began to use that injury time as either a bonus timeout or to slow down an up-tempo offense. And it’s hard to blame them when it is perfectly legal, hard to question, and a genuine loophole in college football.

In multiple instances last year, Tennessee was on the wrong end of injury faking, and head coach Josh Heupel was vocal about it. Before going any further, let’s be clear, this is not a problem that only pertains to Tennessee, nor is Tennessee likely only a victim of this. This is an issue across the landscape of college football.

One of the most direct memories of this happening was against Ole Miss last October, but Heupel voiced his opinion about it first in November against Kentucky.

While the Vols were driving against the Wildcats late in the game in Lexington, Kentucky had a number of injuries while Tennessee’s up-tempo offense was moving the ball. It is always a tricky subject to speculate on injuries because of their inherent nature. But, at the same time, it is being exploited for an advantage in college football.

“At times, I think people do that,” Heupel said after the Kentucky game about faking injuries to gather time. “In this football game, we moved the ball with tempo. And guys end up finding a way to go down and allowing substitutions to happen or just change the momentum of the football game.”

The NCAA’s concerns are valid when prioritizing safety for the players. At the same time, though, this is something that has to be addressed at some point as offenses continue to move the ball faster. The game’s rules have to adapt to the game’s natural evolution.

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