When I was in the 6th grade I wanted to coach college football. I love the game. As much as I appreciate the technical precision and standards of the Pro game, I love collegiate football. I was pretty small as a kid so I never really envisioned playing football. I did try it for a year in high-school, but when I was referred to by my coach as being on “the midget squad”, I gave up my athletic aspirations and got a job as a vidoegrapher covering the sports I used to play. It was only after I shot over the 6 foot mark following my sophomore year that I began to regret that decision a little.
Getting back to little 6th grade me, I would get bored in class. So one day I brought a folder to school and every time I was bored in class I would pull out this folder and I would draw plays. I think by the end of my 7th grade year I must have drawn over 500 plays. I did manage to lose my folder twice in that time so I drew at least a thousand plays but a lot of those were just repeats.
When I got in to High School, after losing that folder again, I got interested in defense. So I started drawing up defensive play. I fancy myself a 3-4 man. I like the flexibility it gives you. Of course, I lost those folders too. As I got older, I continued to watch and think about what I would have done, what kind of play I would call as so many fans do. I have always loved the idea of coaching football, until today.
I was watching the Texas Longhorns play the Missouri Tigers. On a 3rd and short Missouri QB James Franklin drops back to pass. The Texas downfield coverage is solid and as the seconds tick the defensive front is closing in fast. Franklin makes a good read. He has De’Vion Moorein the flat. On the other side of the ball Kenny Vaccaro, the Texas safety also makes a good read. He sees Moore coming out to the flat. The pass is complete. An instant later Vaccaro is crashing into Moore to make the stop. It should have brought up 4th and 4 and an obvious punt. But this does not happen. Instead, there is a flag on the field.
You see, as Vaccaro goes to make the tackle, Moore, 5’9”, braces for impact. Vaccaro, 6’1”, squares his shoulders and leans in. The result, Vaccaro tackles him across the shoulders. His helmet makes glancing contact with Moore. Vaccaro was coming with a full head of steam. The hit is fairly violent, but this is football. The tackle is technically perfect. His eyes are up, his shoulders are square, and he wraps up they way anyone who has ever played the game, has been taught to do. Yet, there is a flag on the ground at the spot of the tackle.
The ref announces that there has been a personal foul on number 4 of the defense (Vaccaro). I’m puzzled. He explains that it is for striking the receiver too high with the helmet. Now, I’m befuddled. According to this call Vaccaro is being penalized for being taller than the receiver, who is ducking as he tackles him. I want to know, what was he supposed to do?
Was he supposed to change his direction mid lunge as the man ducked? Was he supposed to leave his feet and dive so he could hit him lower? (Oh wait, that’s illegal too.) Was he supposed to tackle him with his head completely upright, putting himself at risk?
I need someone from the officiating crew and the NCAA rules and infractions committee to explain to me exactly how what he did was unsafe and what he should have done in that situation.
We now have a situation where it is getting way to hard to play defense. It just doesn’t seem like it’s fun anymore. Defensive lineman and linebackers can barely touch the quarterback. Defensive backs are so restricted from contact both before and after the catch that only the most elite among them has any chance at stopping a receiver. In addition to the extremely sensitive penalty calls for contact in the helmet area, there are equally as sensitive calls for hitting “defenseless” receivers. The term “defenseless” is completely up to interpretation. Most of the time, I disagree with the interpretation. This is football. These rules aren’t.
I realized today that I don’t want to coach college football anymore. That dream inside that little kid is now dormant. I would hope that one day we can get back to playing the game I love, theway I loved it. But for now, I don’t want to be a coach, not anymore.