College football now has the Kenny Pickett Rule.
The NCAA Rules Committee took less than a week to respond to the fake slide the Pitt quarterback pulled off in the 2021 ACC championship game against Wake Forest. Pickett’s okey doke helped to spring him for a 58-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring in an eventual 45-21 Panthers’ victory.
There was doubt at the time whether Pickett had broken a rule in addition to ankles. On Thursday, the committee tried to eliminate the gray area with an update to the interpretation of Rule 4-1-3, the relevant rule in this case. Going forward, any motion toward a slide should result in the play being blown dead.
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“Any time a ball carrier begins, simulates, or fakes a feet-first slide, the ball should be declared dead by the on-field officials at that point,” Steve Shaw, the NCAA’s national coordinator of football officials, wrote in a bulletin. “The intent of the rule is player safety, and the objective is to give a ball carrier an option to end the play by sliding feet first and to avoid contact. To allow the ball carrier to fake a slide would compromise the defense that is being instructed to let up when the ball carrier slides feet first. A fake slide will not be considered reviewable under Rule 12-3-3 — Dead Ball and Loose Ball.”
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Pickett took advantage of that instruction to defenders when he feigned a slide in the opening minute of the ACC title game. Wake players stopped closing in on Pickett because they didn’t want to risk a personal foul penalty for unnecessary roughness.
“I saw him pull up, I just wanted to keep going, so it kind of worked out,” Pickett told ABC in a postgame interview.
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Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson predicted the NCAA would “have a look at” Pickett’s move.
“You just train your players, as soon as your quarterback starts sliding, you stop because if you touch him it’s going to be a penalty,” Clawson said after the ACC title game, per The Associated Press. “He started his slide, and our kids stopped playing. I don’t think he did it intentionally, but if he did, he’s brilliant. I just think he reacted as an athlete. But what do you tell your players? The quarterback is protected, and there are two guys there who could have made a play but stopped playing because he started to slide.”
Pickett, who finished in the top four in Heisman Trophy voting this year, had a short and sweet response Thursday on Twitter after the NCAA’s guidance made the rounds.