The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel has announced that the Ivy League will experiment with kickoffs from the 40-yard line during the 2016 season against conference opponents only.
According to the release from the NCAA, the rule was approved on an experimental basis earlier today, and also notes that the spot of the ball following a touchback will be moved from the 25 back to the 20-yard line. Earlier this week, word broke that the NCAA and AFCA were in "preliminary talks" about eliminating the kickoff altogether.
The Ivy League has been on the forefront of rule changes in the name of player safety, including mandating that league members will no longer tackle during practices in season - a rule that passed with a unanimous vote.
The release states the the Ivy League "is interested in the experimental rule to see if altering the kickoff location will bolster safety by increasing the number of touchbacks."
Data that will be collected during the season will include number of games, weather conditions, total number of kickoffs, number of kickoffs that go into the end zone, number of kicks that result in touchbacks, and number of kicks fielded "or out of bounds, between the goal line and 10-yard line."
As for the all-important injury data that will be collected, that will include:
- Total number of injuries on kickoffs
- Total number of concussions on all plays
- Total number of concussions on kickoffs
- Total number of concussions on kickoffs that result in touchbacks
- Total number of concussions on kickoffs returned from the end zone
- Total number of concussions on kickoffs returned that didn't reach the end zone.
Teams in the Ivy League average about 6 touchbacks per team for an entire season, and the average kickoff from teams traveled just 57 yards. That means that the average kick in the league didn't have enough juice in conference play to reach the end zone, so it will be interesting to see what the sample size and the data collected in this experimental run end up conveying.