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NCAA Adopts Rule Changes

Changes in the rules of college football aimed at protecting defensive players from dangerous blocks and keeping offenses from using quick substitutions to gain an advantage were approved by the NCAA Football Rules Committee, which met in Indianapolis in February.

Among the alterations to the rulebook is an expansion to the definition of an illegal block to mean any high-low block by two offensive players when the initial contact clearly occurs beyond the neutral zone. Such a block could have previously been considered legal if the contacts were simultaneous.

Another rule change involved the "crack-back" block.

Before, offensive players positioned more than seven yards in any direction from the middle offensive lineman at the snap, or in motion toward the ball at the snap, were prohibited from blocking below the waist toward the original position of the ball behind or within five yards beyond the neutral zone.

Now, the infraction, which carries a 15-yard penalty, applies to offensive players in motion in any direction, including the neutral zone and 10 yards beyond.

A rule to keep offenses that are making substitutions or simulated substitutions from rushing quickly to the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball before the defense can make necessary adjustments was also adopted.

The penalty is 5 yards on the first infraction and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct foul for each successive time.

The committee also did away with the penalty for an illegal fair-catch signal. Now, the ball becomes dead on possession.

All the rule changes will take effect in the 2000 season.

Top NAIA Coach Joins Huskers Staff

Tim Albin, AFM's 1999 NAIA Coach of the Year and the man who guided Northwestern Oklahoma State to a national championship last season is the new tight ends coach at Nebraska.

Albin, who will be a graduate assistant at Nebraska, said leaving Northwestern was the toughest decision he has made.

"The program is going to continue winning because there are a lot of great people associated with the Rangers," he said.

Northwestern offensive coordinator Garin Higgins will succeed Albin. He has been on the Rangers' staff since 1995.

Higgins will continue as offensive coordinator. Defensive coordinator Troy Haub will add duties as assistant head coach.

After Debate, Arkansas Officials Reach Compromise on Home Games

Competing plans, one that would discontinue the University of Arkansas' tradition of playing at least three of its home games off-campus in Little Rock and one that endeavored to salvage the Little Rock games by expanding War Memorial Stadium were met with a compromise plan approved by trustees in February.

The final decision, approved by a 9-1 vote, will give Little Rock just two games in 11 of the next 15 seasons but the standard three games in the other four seasons, including next year. But the vote cooled plans for expanding the Little Rock stadium from 53,000 seats to 64,000.

Arkansas' on-campus stadium is being expanded from 49,000 to 70,000 seats, which prompted the decision to play more games in Fayetteville, according to Athletics Director Frank Broyles, who said the change will increase revenues for the athletic department. The NCAA allows teams to schedule 12 games a year in six of the next 20 years, and Arkansas will likely choose to play its three Little Rock games in those years.

"I'm thrilled," Broyles said. He said that despite the controversy that had pitted the central region of the state versus northwest Arkansas, the board "gives us a chance to unify the state."

The vote equaled a big disappointment for the chair of the commission representing the Little Rock venue.

"By playing only two games a year at War Memorial Stadium for 11 years, we will not be able to proceed with the stadium expansion plans presented to the board last month," Louis Schaufele said. "In our minds, a great Arkansas tradition has been severely diminished."

Arena Players Form Union,
2000 Season Salvaged

A week after owners announced the 2000 Arena football season would be scrapped due to an antitrust suit filed on behalf of its players, the league said the season would be reinstated.

The change of plans was made March 1 after players agreed to form a labor union for the purpose of reaching a collective bargaining agreement. However, a lawyer for players opposed to unionizing said immediately after that a majority of players are in his camp and he planned to continue to pursue the suit.

The antitrust lawsuit charges that illegal collusion among team owners has led to "price-fixed" salaries, no injury benefits and no free agency. The lawyer for the antiunion players, Jeffrey Kessler, also said many players have been coerced by owners to sign cards, and that a majority of all players do not want a union.

"The whole thing is a sham," Kessler said.

A Supreme Court decision in 1996 involving the NFL prohibited unionized workers from filing antitrust suits.

AFL Commissioner David Baker said training camps for 18 teams, including the new Los Angeles Avengers, would open on March 19, as originally scheduled, and league owners would start immediately on contract talks with the Arena Football League Players' Organizing Committee.

"The players have spoken, the owners have responded, and it is the fans who have won," Baker said.

The average league salary is $30,000, far below averages in major sports leagues.

The 14-year-old league has become financially stable and is the most successful of the offshoot leagues in the United States. Team values have soared to nearly $7 million, and the NFL holds an option to purchase up to 49 percent of the league.

The regular season, which includes televised games on TNN, ESPN and ESPN2, and a championship-game broadcast by ABC, is scheduled to open April 13.

Bulldogs Hire Gibbs, Settle With Ramsey

The University of Georgia has its third defensive coordinator in as many years, with former Oklahoma Coach Gary Gibbs replacing Kevin Ramsey.

Gibbs, who has been out of coaching since resigning from the Sooners in 1994, will be reunited with Bulldogs head coach Jim Donnan. The two worked together on Barry Switzer's staff at OU in the 1980s.

Donnan said he initially called Gibbs not to offer a job, but to get his input on improving the defense. During that conversation, Gibbs revealed he might be ready to get back into coaching.

The DC position opened at Georgia in February after Donnan demoted Ramsey, whom he had hired away from Tennessee one year earlier, to secondary coach.

In 1999 the Bulldogs finished last in the Southeastern Conference in both total yards allowed (382.6 per game) and passing yards allowed (278.1) and finished second to last behind Kentucky in points allowed per game (25.9).

Ramsey chose not to accept the demotion and left Georgia a few days later after settling with the university on a severance package.

"We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us, regardless of who's coaching or who's playing," Donnan said. "We gave up a lot of points at the end of the year and we've got to rectify that."

Ramsey has made no public comment on the situation.

Meanwhile, Gibbs, 47, said he's excited about reentering the coaching profession after a five-year layoff.

"Timing is everything," said Gibbs, who has worked in private business since leaving the coaching. "The opportunity that Georgia football brought to the table was just too good to pass up."

Gibbs had a record of 44-23-2 in six seasons at Oklahoma.

AFM Readers Say 'No' to H.S. National Title Game, 'Yes' to the Bear

Creating a dream matchup each season between the nation's two top-ranked high school football teams for the purpose of crowning a national champion is an idea that a majority of AFM readers who took part in an online survey at said they could do without.

A season that is already too long, a need to put more focus on academics, and the difficulties associated with choosing the participants were among the reasons given by the 56 percent who voted "no."

FOXSports plans to pit the No. 1 and No. 2 teams from its FOX Fab 50 rankings in America's first national title game of prep football. Many state athletic associations have said they would not allow member schools to participate in the post-season game.

And in another readers' poll organized on the website, which asked readers to pick the greatest coach in college football history, Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant garnered the most votes. Here are the final results:

Paul Bryant: 31%
Joe Paterno 24%
Knute Rockne 16%

Among the others receiving votes: Tom Osborne (7%); Bud Wilkinson (4%); Amos Alonzo Stagg; Woody Hayes; Bo Schembechler; Eddie Robinson; Bobby Bowden; Paul Brown; Duffy Daugherty; Lavell Edwards; Roger Harring (Wis.-La Crosse); John McKay; Steve Spurrier; Barry Switzer

A new readers' poll, featuring a range of topics from high school, college and pro football, will be online each week at AFM's home on the Web - You may also email your thoughts on past and future topics to


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