GREENSBORO, N.C. — Dabo Swinney is stuck.
The Clemson coach supports player safety and doesn’t want his Tigers targeting defenseless players, but he’s anxious about the inevitable gray area that looms with the new NCAA rule prohibiting players from leading with the crown of their helmet.
He watched the ACC’s training videos shown to coaches, and several plays made him ask, “How is that going to be officiated.”
This season, a player initiating contact above the shoulder of a defenseless player or leading with the crown of the helmet results in a 15-yard penalty and ejection from the game. A player ejected in the second half must miss the first half of the following game.
At least two ACC coaches asked about the rule at this week’s ACC Football Kickoff preferred the league review plays on Sunday, then suspend the player if the hit is egregious.
“From a coaching standpoint everybody is a little uncomfortable because you don’t know how to coach your guys,” Swinney said.
ACC officiating coordinator Doug Rhoads on Monday explained an ejection is subject to review and can be overturned with indisputable evidence.
ACC coaches gave input to the American Football Coaches Association, but really they have no choice but to adapt to the new rules. Last season, a league office had the discretion to review the video of a hit after the game and suspend a player for the next game if it saw fit.
Officials will emphasize player safety, and the long-term health of the game depends in part on following hard-line rules.
Coaches are fine with that but are concerned with players getting wrongfully ejected when officials have limited time to review a…