Changing the game: Ideas for reshaping college football

If Georgia’s Vince Vance were given an opportunity to change something in the realm of college football, he would have one simple request.

Albany State head coach Mike White, on the other hand, would respectfully disagree with Vance’s request.

Vance, a senior offensive tackle, wants to take care of his fellow linemen — and perhaps cut back on some of the penalty flags that are thrown on to the field from time to time.

“Some of the holding calls that they call on us, sometimes they’re questionable,” said Vance, who made six starts last year before a knee injury ended his season. “Sometimes it may be holding, sometimes it’s not. But it’s not our call. It’s the referee’s call.”

White, who has been Albany State’s head coach for a decade and has served as Albany State’s defensive guru for much longer, says defensive linemen already can’t get a break. Letting offensive linemen hold? That would just be too much for a defensive coordinator to stomach.

“They allow the offensive linemen to clip the defensive linemen, and they won’t allow you to hit the quarterback (low),” White said. “But the rules are geared to make the game more exciting, so that’s why they do it. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.”

While the argument of what to call an illegal hold has gone on for years in college football, there are many other ideas for change out there, ranging from the whimsical to earth-shattering.

Several participants at last month’s Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame were asked what they would change about the game of football if given the chance. A few had a couple of fun ideas. Others made some downright serious requests. And some wouldn’t change a thing about a sport that draws the attention of much of the country on fall Saturdays.

Bill Curry, who is preparing Georgia State for its 2010 debut, would like to see a change in the tone in which college football is addressed at its highest levels.

“If there would be one thing that I could change, it would be the overexposure that leads directly to the misconception that it’s all about money,” said Curry, a former SEC head coach and ESPN commentator. “It is not all about money. It is not all about ratings for ESPN. Those things are OK if they are kept in perspective. But I get sick every time I see a kid sitting on a couch with his family on draft day and the mom starts sobbing if the kid is not drafted in the first round. The next thing you know, he’s crying as if he’s some kind of failure. It’s ridiculous. I wish we could stop that.”

On the field, Georgia Southern quarterback Lee Chapple wouldn’t mind having some more freedom to get rid of the ball while under pressure in the backfield.

In recent years, the intentional grounding rule has been loosened up to allow quarterbacks to throw the ball away once they leave the pocket. Chapple would like to grant quarterbacks who are still in the pocket the same privilege.

“They have tweaked it, but it’s still there,” Chapple said. “Every year, they have to teach it again to make sure you know how to do it and when to do it.”

Fort Valley State wide receiver Ricardo Lockette would like to have more freedom to catch a pass thrown by a quarterback under pressure.

Currently, defensive backs are allowed to jam receivers within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. But once beyond that zone, contact is not supposed to take place, either offensively or defensively.

Lockette would like to level the playing field in that respect.

“In those 5 yards, the cornerback can basically do anything he wants to do to you, and then down the field you get a flag if you shoot them a small little push-off,” Lockette said. “We get beat up for 5 yards, and we push off one time and get a flag. They should give a little more leniency to the wide receivers.”

Any discussion of change in college football is sure to include an argument for a playoff, an argument Valdosta State cornerback Carlos Anderson is more than willing to advance.

Anderson, who played on Valdosta State’s 2007 Division II national championship team, takes the playoff idea a step further. He said he would open it up to a team on any level that can qualify, giving an opportunity to teams like the 2007 Appalachian State squad that beat Michigan.

“At the end of the season in a playoff, you will get the best teams,” Anderson said. “Sometimes the teams you face in bowl games aren’t the best teams that season. They just happened to get there because of their record and the competition level they played. At the end of the season, you’re guaranteed of having the best teams in a playoff.”

The idea of a playoff also was brought up by Georgia head coach Mark Richt, whose team put up a strong argument for inclusion in the national championship game following the 2007 season but was shut out.

Richt, however, sounded a tone of caution regarding any wholesale changes that might be brought to college football.

“You know what, college football is so strong right now,” Richt said. “If you go to a four-team playoff or an eight-team playoff, I don’t think you would hurt the game. It might help the game, it might not. I think you always have to be careful when you make a change that you just don’t know how it might affect something that you never dreamed of.”

On one level of college football in particular, the junior college level, expansion would be seen as a good thing.

As things stand now, Georgia Military is the only junior college program in Georgia. The closest state with a robust field of junior college football teams is Mississippi, but those teams play an in-state schedule. That forces GMC to play games as far away as Utah and New York.

A proposal to add junior college football in Florida was floated in the state legislature in 2006 but did not get off the ground.

“(Adding Florida) would really help us,” GMC offensive coordinator Jeff Tatum said. “We’re at a disadvantage to most junior colleges in that we have to do a lot of travel. Last year, we had to travel more than 10,000 miles to play all of our football games.

“One thing that our guys don’t have is somebody to wake up every morning and hate. Georgia, when they wake up every morning, they’re hating the Florida Gators. Valdosta State, they wake up every morning not liking West Georgia, and West Georgia wakes up every morning not liking Valdosta State. Same thing with Tech. They have their rivalries. We don’t have a rivalry.”

Then there are those things in college football that appear to be targets for change, if not for the support of those that back the current situation.

Overtime falls into that category. Since it was implemented in the 1990s, the 25-yard college overtime rule has resulted in several dramatic finishes, with some calling for the NFL to add such a system.

“I love the college overtime,” Chapple said. “I wish the pros would go to it. I think it makes for a more exciting game.”

And there is Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, who staunchly defends the cut block, a type of block many defensive coordinators would rather do without.

“There’s a huge difference between cut blocking and chop blocking,” Johnson said. “A lot of people cry and complain. We practice against ourselves every day. People will say, ‘Oh, you’re going to hurt somebody.’ Well, teach them to put their hands down. They won’t get hurt. It’s part of the game. Otherwise, let’s just get all 340-pound guys, put them side-by-side and they can just waddle on.”