The NCAA Football Rules Committee met in Indianapolis this week and recommended several rule changes for the 2020 season, including that No. 0 be added as a legal jersey number.
The proposed change comes in response to the increasing popularity of single-digit numbers and works hand-in-hand with another recommendation, which is that no more than two players may wear the same jersey number. The committee believes having more than two players with the same number creates confusion for the referees and makes scouting opponents difficult, and the current rules only state players using identical numbers must play different positions and can’t be on the field at the same time — which is why you’ll see players switch numbers mid-game in order to play special teams or in certain packages.
“We do recognize that there’s this excitement and desire for student-athletes to wear a single-digit number,” said Steve Shaw, secretary-rules editor and national coordinator of officials. “We anticipate that there’s going to be a lot of excitement for who’s going to be the first player to wear zero at their institution.”
Just imagine a wide receiver wearing No. 0 to suggest how many defensive backs can cover him or a lockdown cornerback wearing it to represent the number of yards he allows. Or, better yet, a 300-pound offensive lineman wearing it because… well, because he can.
The possibilities are endless.
Other potential rule changes include allowing players who have been ejected for targeting to remain on the sideline rather than being banished to their locker room for the remainder of the game; limiting instant replay to two minutes to increase the pace of play; and giving officials jurisdiction a full 90 minutes before kickoff — rather than the current rule of one hour — to limit pregame interactions between teams, such as the scuffle that occurred ahead of the 2019 Belk Bowl between Kentucky and Virginia Tech. No players were ejected, though, as the fight occurred outside of the aforementioned 60-minute window.
The full recommendation has been sent to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss the proposed changes on April 16.
Photo and illustration via Andrew Lind.