New Rule Proves Effective

October 20, 2017

An experimental kickoff rule, considered an important and proactive initiative towards enhancing student-athlete safety, has produced tangible results, including a significant drop in injuries and concussions throughout the 2016 season, the Ivy League announced today.
After averaging six concussions per year during the Ivy League conference slate the previous three seasons, athletes suffered zero concussions on kickoff plays in 2016.
The Ivy League is again using the experimental rule in 2017 and will review the data after the season.
“We were very pleased when we reviewed the data to find our experimental kickoff rule had the desired effect, which is more touchbacks and fewer returns, leading to the most important goal which is the safety and welfare of our incredible student-athletes.” said Executive Director Robin Harris.
The NCAA granted the League’s request to implement the experimental rule for the 2016 season, moving kickoffs up five yards from the 35-yard line to the 40. The goal of the rule was to limit kickoff returns, which accounted for 23.4 percent of concussions during games despite representing only 5.8 percent of overall plays.

2016 Non-Conference Ivy
Avg. Kickoffs / Game 10.5 9.2
Avg. Kickoffs into EZ / Game 2.7 5.6
Avg. Touchbacks / Game 2.4 4.5
Avg. Kickoffs fielded b/w GL-10yrd line 4.8 2.3
Avg. Onsides Kicks / Game 0.3 0.5


Touchbacks 2016 44.1% 23.9% 38.9%
Kickoff Returns 2016 57.3% 71.3% 53.5%
Touchbacks 2015 12.4% 23.0% 39.0%
Kickoff Returns 2015 72.5% 72.0% 54.1%

Despite averaging fewer kickoffs per game than the rest of FCS, the Ivy League more than doubled the amount of kickoffs into the end zone with its experimental rule, and nearly doubled the average touchbacks per game. Kicking from the 40-yard line enabled Ivy League kickers to record touchbacks 44.1 percent of the time, well ahead of the rest of FCS. The number of kicks returned dropped 15.2 percent in 2016, below that of the FCS, which stayed essentially the same.
The Ivy League complemented the experimental rule with a policy that originated from the League’s eight head football coaches to eliminate to-the-ground ("live") tackling in practices during the regular season, which also went into effect with the 2016 campaign.
Both the kickoff rule and the tackling policy are part of The Ivy League’s overall review of concussions, which began with football in 2010. The Ivy League expanded the review to include eight other sports (men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, wrestling and rugby). As a result of this comprehensive review of concussions, the League began an all-sports concussion data collection and study in 2013.

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