Opinion: The XFL is a blueprint for improving college football safety

The NCAA can learn from the new pro league by reforming the kickoff and reducing collisions.



The XFL official game ball is seen Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Hailey Marx, Columnist

The Super Bowl might be long gone, but the football season is just getting started for the XFL.

The new professional league is similar to the NFL but aims to create a safer environment. The key difference between the NFL and the XFL boils down to how they mitigate high-speed collisions. Some of these new rules, especially concerning safety, should be implemented on the college level as well.

College football is more closely related to the NFL in terms of how the game is played, but with the introduction of the XFL, it would be a good idea to see how the NCAA can implement similar ideas and practices.

One of the best rule changes in the XFL is its design of the kickoff.

The kicker kicks from his team’s own 30-yard line while the rest of the players line up on both sides of the opposing team’s 35- and 30-yard line. The kicking team may not run until the returning player has caught the ball or the ball has bounced on the field for more than three seconds.

The goal was to increase the safety of players by reducing the risk of hard hits but ensuring a chance to run the ball down the field. This encompasses a fast-paced game with less touchbacks while protecting players.

If the NCAA takes into consideration some the safety rules implemented by the XFL, they would make the gridiron safer.

The current college rules stipulate that kicking teams line up on their own 25-yard line and the returning team lines up on their own 35-yard line. Fair catches and hard hits are still a strong possibility. If the NCAA takes into consideration some the safety rules implemented by the XFL, they would make the gridiron safer.

Extra focus on protecting younger players arose when Eric LeGrand, a player on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, was paralyzed from a collision on a kickoff in 2010.

Then-Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano later devised his own proposal to improve kickoffs. The “Schiano Rule” eliminates the kickoff and instead a team receives the ball at its own 30-yard line, and runs a fourth-and-15 play from scrimmage. In most circumstances, teams would punt in order to avoid the turnover on downs, but it would keep open the chance to go for it in desperate situations.

Schiano explained that he would like to see more changes in football, or changes taking place sooner. Legrand’s injury was in 2010 and Schiano proposed changes in 2014. It is the beginning of 2020, and the only changes the NFL or NCAA has made to ensure players safety was increased penalties and increasing the chance of touchbacks.

Then-Texas Longhorns coach Tom Herman told CBS Sports in 2018 “Before we (current coaches) retire … I firmly believe you’re not going to see kickoffs.” The XFL has altered kickoffs to ensure the safety of players and with the success of the idea and execution so far it is quite possible for college football to jump on the bandwagon or completely disassemble kickoffs all together.

If the XFL continues to see success with its new rules, college football may take up such ideas as well. Young athletes would experience a better, safer competitive environment.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.