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The following rule changes were voted on by the NCAA Football Rules Committee for the 2016 season:
Requiring replay officials to review all aspects of targeting penalties, including the option to call a targeting foul missed by the on-field officials if the foul is deemed egregious. After several hits during the early part of the season that resulted in concussions that should have been targeting, the NCAA Rules Committee reinforced this rule for replay officials and also clarified the "crown of the helmet" (to determine targeting penalties) as the area above the facemask to the dome of the helmet.
Allowing electronic devices to be used for coaching purposes in the press box and locker room during the game. Electronic devices will still be prohibited on the field and sideline.
Coaches can now be ejected after receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in one game, the same as players.
A ball carrier who "gives himself up" (e.g., by sliding) will now be considered a defenseless player.
Deliberate tripping of a ball carrier with the leg is now a 15-yard penalty.
Players who leave the tackle box are now prohibited from blocking below the waist toward the initial position of the ball.
An exception to a rule introduced for the 2015 season regarding low hits to passers (i.e., at or below the knee) was eliminated. Previously, a defensive player would not have been penalized for such a hit if making a bona fide attempt at a tackle.
Teams attempting a scrimmage kick (i.e., field goals, PATs, and punts) must have five offensive linemen (numbered 50-79) on the scrimmage line unless the kicking team has at least two players seven yards OR one player at least 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Previously, only one player had to be lined up seven yards behind the line to avoid using five linemen, causing confusion in kick coverage on defense.
The procedure for restarting the game clock following a penalty by the offense will change if the penalized team has a lead in the last two minutes of either half. Before this season, the game clock would have been restarted in this situation once the ball was declared ready for play; it now will not start until the ball is snapped.
The committee, once again, took no action on changing the ineligible receiver downfield rule from three yards to one yard; however it will once again be a "point of emphasis" and will adjust officiating mechanics to better officiate those plays.
Although Coastal Carolina began the transition process to FBS in the 2016 season and joined the Sun Belt Conference in non-football sports, it was officially classified as an FCS independent for this first season of the transition. Coastal Carolina became a provisional FBS member when the football team joined the Sun Belt in 2017, and full FBS membership and bowl eligibility followed in 2018.
April 8 - The NCAA Division I Council voted to prohibit FBS schools from participating in or conducting so-called "satellite camps." The NCAA had already prohibited schools from hosting camps located more than 50 miles (80 km) from campus, but many coaches took advantage of a loophole that allowed them to participate in off-site camps as guest coaches. The new rule was reversed on April 28.
April 11 - The Division I Council approved a three-year moratorium on new bowl games, following a season in which a record three teams with sub-.500 records made bowls. No new bowls will be allowed until the 2019 season. This decision affected three games that were in the process of seeking NCAA certification for the 2016 season.
The University of Idaho announced that the Vandals football team would return to the FCSBig Sky Conference, its all-sports league, effective with the 2018 season. The Vandals will become the first team ever to voluntarily drop from FBS to FCS.
The Division I Board of Directors rescinded the FBS satellite camp ban that had been approved less than three weeks earlier. The ban had sparked major controversy within several conferences, notably the Pac-12 (whose Division I Council representative voted for the ban despite 11 of the league's 12 members opposing it). Additionally, the ban was seen as having the unintended effect of limiting scholarship opportunities, especially at Group of Five schools, for a large number of high school prospects.
November 26 - Pittsburgh defeated Syracuse 76-61, with the two teams setting a new FBS record for combined points scored in a regulation game. The previous record had been set by Navy and North Texas in 2007.
Wisconsin hosted LSU at the first-ever Division I FBS game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, also on September 3. The Badgers surprised the No. 5 Tigers 16-14. AP reporter Genaro Armas wrote that the loss, the first in a season opener for Les Miles in his 12 seasons at LSU, "will surely put Miles back on the hot seat after he was nearly run out of Baton Rouge after a 9-3 season in 2015."
In the first full weekend of the season, seven teams ranked in the AP Poll lost, the most in an opening week since the debut of the AP preseason poll in 1950. The seven ranked losers included two top-five teams; the last time two such teams had lost in the season's first week was 1972. The weekend also saw seven SEC teams lose their season openers, which had not happened since the league returned to 12 teams with the 1992 arrival of Arkansas and South Carolina.[n 2] One of those loses saw South Alabama defeat Mississippi State 21-20 as a 28-point underdog, which was the biggest FPI upset in the last 5 seasons (2.3% chance to win before the match).
On September 10, a finish noted for its improbability happened when Central Michigan defeated Oklahoma State 30-27 on a Hail Mary pass followed by a lateral on the game's final play. Shortly afterwards, the game officials, as well as the conferences of the participating teams (the MAC and Big 12 respectively), announced that Central Michigan should not have been allowed to run the winning play. On the previous play, during which the clock had run out, Oklahoma State had been called for intentional grounding on fourth down. Under NCAA rules, a game cannot end on an accepted live ball foul; however, an exception to that rule states that if the penalty includes a loss of down--which is the case for intentional grounding--the game ends at that point.
On September 17, FCS program North Dakota State defeated No. 13 Iowa on a late field goal to win 23-21 at Kinnick Stadium, becoming just the fourth FCS team to beat an AP-ranked FBS team. This was Iowa's first loss to a non FBS opponent. The next day, NDSU received 74 points in the AP Poll to set a new record for votes received by an FCS team in a single AP Poll.
On December 10, Army defeated No. 25 ranked Navy 21-17 to end a 14-year losing streak in the Army-Navy Game, the longest for either side in the rivalry's history.
Miami (FL) debuted major renovations to the renamed Hard Rock Stadium. In a project that began after the Hurricanes and the stadium's owner, the Miami Dolphins, completed their 2014 seasons, a canopy was added over the main seating areas, video boards were placed in each corner, many luxury suites and club seats were added, and the stadium's lower bowl was reconstructed, eliminating an obsolete movable stand that had been added in the early 1990s to accommodate Major League Baseball's Florida (now Miami) Marlins. The capacity was reduced from over 75,000 to slightly over 65,000.
Utah State made major renovations to Maverik Stadium, adding a new complex to the west side featuring expanded concourses, luxury suites, and a new press box.
Oklahoma is currently undertaking a $160 million renovation of the south end zone of Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The renovation which will bowl in the end zone includes 22 enclosed suites, 60 loge boxes and nearly 2,000 club seats. The new end zone when completed will be topped by a new state of the art 7,806 square feet scoreboard. The official capacity increased to 83,489 (from 82,112).
Ole Miss debuted phase 2 of the latest renovations and expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The 2016 season saw the opening of new seating bowls in the north end zone, bringing capacity to 64,038.
Florida State unveiled The Champions Club, a new club seat section constructed for Doak Campbell Stadium. The exclusive 6,000-seat club seat section, with more than 70,000 square feet of air conditioned club space and 34,000 square feet of covered rooftop terraces, was built in the south end zone across from the Unconquered Statue.
Arizona State began a four-year renovation of Sun Devil Stadium after the 2014 season. For the 2016 season, upper deck seats were removed and the lower bowl on the west sideline and north end zone was redone. Renovations are expected to be complete by the start of the 2018 season.
West Virginia was in the midst of approximately $50 million in renovations to Milan Puskar Stadium. For this season, the old turf and goalposts were replaced, and the crown under the field was removed and a modern base and drainage system installed that is more in keeping with today's infilled artificial turf systems. Also, work on the east and north side gates and concourses, including renovations to concessions, restrooms, and additional space for EMS and police operations, was completed for the 2016 season. Similar work on the west and south sides of the stadium is ongoing and expected to be completed for 2017.
Louisville began work on expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium during the season. The project will increase the stadium's capacity from 55,000 to 65,000, and at the time was planned to be complete for the 2019 season. Due to unexpected fundraising success, the project timetable was advanced, and the expansion is now expected to open for the 2018 season.
In addition to the stadium updates above, two schools played their final season in their then-current venues:
Colorado State was in the process of replacing Hughes Stadium, owned by the university but located about 4 miles (6 km) west of the main campus, with a new on-campus venue tentatively known as Colorado State Stadium. The new stadium opened for the 2017 season.
Georgia State played its final season in the Georgia Dome, as the stadium was to be demolished once its replacement, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opened in September 2017. As noted above, Georgia State purchased Turner Field with the intent of renovating the stadium for football, and the Panthers began playing home games there in 2017 while renovations were ongoing.
There were 40 postseason bowl games, with two teams advancing to a 41st – the CFP National Championship game. As in previous seasons, teams with losing records could become bowl-eligible in order to fill all 80 bowl slots.
^Due to time zone differences, the game took place on August 26 in the home time zones of both participating schools.
^The SEC was founded in 1932 with 13 members. The league operated with 12 members from the 1940 departure of Sewanee to the 1964 departure of Georgia Tech, and then with 11 members until Tulane left in 1966.
^Interim for remainder of season; named permanent replacement on November 26, 2016.
^Although Orlando was originally announced as being the Cougars' head coach for the Las Vegas Bowl, he would ultimately not serve in that role; Applewhite immediately assumed head coaching duties.