Back during the Olympics, I wrote about badminton players intentionally playing to lose. Despite the absurdity of the situation, the Olympians were merely following one of political science’s most important laws:
Law: People will strategize according to the institutional features put in front of them.
We can now add college football players to the list of people who follow the rule. Over the off-season, the NCAA created a rule which forces a player whose helmet comes off during a play (incidental or otherwise) to sit out the following play. To the surprise of no one, defenders are now taking advantage of it. Here is the new game plan, in three simple steps:
- Get the opposing quarterback into a large pile.
- Take off his helmet.
The rule seems inherently bizarre. It’s understandable to force a player to sit out a play if his helmet explodes off of his head on a major hit; concussions are a major issue in football. But if the helmet just slides off (maliciously or otherwise) away from the action, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to force such a player out of the game temporarily.
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