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Kickoff fair catches not catching on

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The new college football rule rewarding teams for making fair catches on kickoffs has not caught on like officiating supervisors expected and more changes could be made in 2019 to further reduce kick returns or make them safer.

If a fair catch is made on a kickoff anywhere between the goal line and 25 this season, it is ruled a touchback and the ball is marked at the 25. The goal was to have fewer kick returns, which have a higher injury rate compared with other types of plays because of the likelihood of high-speed player collisions.

Fair catches were made on just 11.2 percent of kickoffs in the Football Bowl Subdivision through games of Oct. 13 or approximately half the season. There were touchbacks in the end zone on 45 percent of kickoffs while 40.6 percent were returned (compared with 51 percent returned for the entire 2017 season). The remaining 3.2 percent of kickoffs were either out of bounds or onside attempts.

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