The NCAA cannot control Mike Stoops' temper. But — starting this fall — it can ensure he toes the sideline.
The NCAA has passed 10 new rules aimed at making games shorter, safer and simpler. Among them: Stricter penalties for any coach or player who crosses the sideline during a game.
The first two sideline violations will be 5-yard penalties; anything after that will go for 15. In past years, teams were warned twice before a penalty was called. Even then, flags for sideline demeanor were rare.
Stoops said he supports the new rule, even if he foresees a tougher task for Corey Edmond. The Wildcats' director of performance enhancement is the designated "get-back" enforcer during games.
"I don't see us getting any penalties for that," Stoops said. "The focus should be on the game and not on the coaches. There's a way to get officials' attention if you want things changed and looked at without going on the field."
The new rule was enacted to keep coaches accountable, said Rogers Redding, the NCAA's Football Rules Interpreter.
"A lot of our coaches expressed concern that other coaches around the country were getting on the field too much, not giving officials room to work and not staying back like they're supposed to," he said.
Stoops could be exhibit A.
The Wildcats' fiery coach frequently charges onto the field to argue a penalty, beg for a call or correct a player.
Stoops said he ventures onto the field mostly so his players can find him on a sideline full of about 150 people. The Wildcats' home sideline at Arizona Stadium is especially cramped, he said.
Stoops has been called for one penalty in his UA career. It was crippling. Arizona was flagged for a 15-yard penalty just before halftime of last year's 29-27 loss to New Mexico.
The Wildcats' bench had been warned long before referees threw a flag, and the penalty moved the Lobos 15 yards closer to the end zone, from Arizona's 42 to its 27. Two plays later, UNM quarterback Donovan Porterie hit Travis Brown for a touchdown.
At the time, Stoops said the penalty was an eye-opener. He talked with his wife Nicole and vowed to stay off the field.
In an interview last week, the coach played coy.
"Did we get a penalty?" he wondered with a chuckle. "I'm not sure."
NCAA FOOTBALL RULES CHANGES
The NCAA has made 10 rule changes for the 2008 season. Most are designed to make college football games:
• Officials will now penalize any bench player or coach who crosses the sidelines during a game. The first two penalties will go for 5 yards; after that, it's a 15-yarder.
• The 5-yard "incidental" face mask penalty is no more. All face masks are now 15-yard penalties.
• A "horse collar" tackle — tackling a player from behind by his shoulder pads — is now a 15-yard penalty.
• Any block below the waist is now considered a "chop block," and will result in a 15-yard penalty.
• No "defenseless" player can be hit head-first.
• A 40-second play clock will replace the 25-second clock in most situations, but will wind as soon as the previous play ends — not when the ball is spotted, as in past years. The NCAA believes the new clock will standardize — and speed up — games.
Officials will revert to the old system in the last two minutes of each half for 2-minute offenses.
• Instant replay will be allowed on any play that leads directly to a fumble.
• Coaches who win a "coach's challenge" will keep their right to challenge one more time.
• In the wake of the NFL's "Spygate," no teams will be allowed to tape sideline signals given by an opponent.