Football is phasing out the kickoff, and the NCAA’s latest change to the sport’s most dangerous play would have been slightly different, if Alabama coach Nick Saban had his druthers.
According to SaturdayDownSouth.com, via CFT, Saban would have preferred moving the kickoff to the 40 yard line. Instead, the powers-that-be left the kickoff point at the 35, allowing the receiving team to make a fair catch inside the 25, while still getting the ball at the 25.
“I would have liked to have seen a different solution,” Saban said. “I understand the reason, I respect the reason — which is player safety, but I guess I’ve been around long enough to remember when we use to kick off from the 40-yard line. There were too many touchbacks, so we moved it back to the 35.
“So, for us old timers, I thought it would be an easier solution to just move it back up to the 40-yard line, because you’d get more touchbacks but you could still sky kick, onside kick — which you can still do some of those things, but you sky kick trying to give someone bad field position and they can fair catch the ball on the 15-yard line and get it on the 25.
“That takes some of the strategy out of the game, to me, with the result that we had. And you would have had the same result if you just moved it up five yards because almost everybody in college football would kick nothing but touchbacks . . . and you still would have all the strategies that you could have used in other circumstances.”
“Other circumstances” definitely are coming to college and pro football, in the form of the kickoff being eliminated completely and replaced with something else. That something else may be a fourth-and-15 play from the 30, with the option to punt, run a fake punt, or go for it.
It’s a possibility that Commissioner Roger Goodell first floated in a Time profile more than five years ago. Since then, the NFL has systematically neutered the kickoff to the point where it has become a foregone conclusion that kickoffs will be going away. The official PFT over-under continues to be 2.5 years, but it could make sense to bet the under.