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NCAA Football 2013: New Targeting Rule Will be Controversial

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

New rules changes for the 2013 college football season were discussed by Paul Rhoads at the ACC Football Kickoff yesterday, and they’re sure to be controversial.  Rhoads, the ACC Coordinator of Football Officiating, talked about several changes but spent the majority of the time articulating the changes to the targeting rule.

Last year, there were 190 penalties for targeting a defenseless player in the NCAA.  On those occasions, there was a 15-yard penalty assessed for any player leading with the crown of his helmet when initiating contact.  This year, that same 15-yard penalty will be accompanied by an automatic ejection.  Yes, if a player leads with his helmet against a defenseless player, he will be automatically thrown out of the game this year.

Clearly, the NCAA is trying to discourage those type of hits, but the new rule is confusing.  Immediately following each ejection, the play will be reviewed.  That part was added to alleviate coaches’ fears that players would be wrongfully ejected for hits that were in fact legal.  After the review, if the call was wrong, the player’s ejection can be overturned, but the 15-yard penalty cannot be.  That ruling is going to enrage fan bases around the country when it occurs in a crucial situation.

Another interesting aspect of those ejections is that they can impact two games.  If a player is thrown out for an illegal hit in the first half, he will miss the remainder of that game.  But if a player is ejected in the second half, he will miss the rest of the game and the first half of the next game.

Those are pretty severe consequences for a penalty that will be judged subjectively.  While some contact to the head is obviously targeting, other plays aren’t as clear cut.  For instance, Rhoads said that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would likely have been ejected for his now famous hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl last year.  Turns out one of the best plays in recent memory was in fact illegal.

The NCAA should be lauded for their efforts to increase player safety, but that’s not going to make fans feel any better when their best safety is ejected from a game for a bang-bang play in the secondary.

B.L. is a college football writer for Rant Sports and can be followed on Twitter @coachlip.

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