UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Change to rules on low blocks has Badgers' attention


The presence of Big Ten officials for Friday's UW football scrimmage was the equivalent of a classroom lab and training session for the players and coaches on some of the new rules for the 2011 season.

There's a new rule on celebrations or taunting; unsportsmanlike acts that are now a live-ball foul. There's also a new rule providing for 10-second runoffs on penalties in the last minute of halves.

From the UW's perspective, the most important rule change or interpretation involves low blocks or blocking below the waist; a rule that may have an impact on run-oriented offenses.

The irony is that the rule has already been tweaked since last spring.

"When we put it on paper, it came out a little different than what our intent was,'' said Bill Carollo, the supervisor of Big Ten officials. "There are checks and balances and we made a mistake.

"One thought was, 'Let's just wait and see how it goes.' That was the original answer and I said, 'Unacceptable. We can fix this.'

"Now we all realized that it was going to be a lot of extra work. But we can clear up the confusion. We can get to the coaches in June and July and when they go to training camp.

"They haven't taught the players the new rule yet; so let's get with the offensive coordinators and the head coaches and make sure they understand how it's going to be implemented.''

The old language dealt with the "adjacent'' sideline and an imaginary North-South line.

"We didn't like the rule,'' Carollo said, "because it was going to be hard to officiate, hard to coach and hard on the players who had no idea what was their adjacent sideline.''

Previously, the rule stipulated that low blocks were LEGAL with X-number of exceptions.

This season, the rule stipulates that low blocks are ILLEGAL with X-number of exceptions.

"It will be a major change for the offensive coordinators,'' Carollo said.

Wisconsin's Paul Chryst talked about the rule change following Friday's practice.

"Right now, I feel like we've got a good understanding of it,'' said Chryst, noting that Carollo and Big Ten referee Dennis Lipski have broken down the rule in film room sessions with the UW  staff.

"We've been able to go back through all of our plays that were low blocks and see where, 'OK, this is legal and this isn't.' We came out of it pretty clean.''

Will it hurt a team like Wisconsin? "I don't think so,'' Chryst said.

Will it change what you do offensively? "Not really,'' he added.

Looking back on some low blocks that would have been flagged, Chryst suggested, "It would have been a penalty on Saturday with the naked eye and a 'We made a mistake' on Sunday.''

Upon 24-hour further review, he said, "The film would have said it's legal.''

Chryst, in general, has appreciated the dialogue with Carollo and Lipski and others.

"We feel like we're well-informed,'' he said. "We got what we wanted to get from them. How do you see this (play) when you're watching it? I'm anxious now to see how it's applied.''

The intent all along has been to make it a safer game for the players.

"Guys were getting their legs blown out,'' Carollo said.

So, what are some of the exceptions when you can block below the waist?

Those who can are running backs that are stationary at the snap and within the tackle box.

Those who can are the offensive linemen on the line of scrimmage.

If a player is in motion, he can block low as long as he's moving from the inside to the outside.

If he's split wide and motions from the outside to the inside, however, it will be a foul.

"Basically now anything from the outside back towards the ball is going to be a foul,'' Carollo said, "unless you started as a stationary back in the backfield or on the line of scrimmage.''