In the name of player safety, which is an important cause, the NCAA has instituted a rule against targeting that results in an automatic ejection for players on top of a 15-yard personal foul penalty for illegal hits. The simplest explanation defines the targeting rule with two main points:
- Initiating contact with the crown of the helmet or;
- Initiating contact by targeting a defenseless player’s head or neck area
In the first weekend of college football action, six players were flagged and ejected under the new rule, with some mixed results. One of the ejections was overturned immediately upon review, another was not reviewed due to a technical issue but was later deemed to not have been worthy of an ejection, and the four remaining ejections were upheld.
It’s early in the season, and the process will surely be refined and hopefully come as close to being perfected as possible in the near future. But this seems to be a case, as we have seen in the NFL over the last few years, of asking officials to make judgement calls at full speed with athletes that get bigger and faster each year. It also feels like an attempt to legislate contact out of a contact sport, as well as determine a player’s intentions, and if college players were being paid the NCAA would surely have levied significant fines against the four players whose ejections held up after the weekend’s action.
An added layer to the targeting rule is that ejections that occur in the second half of a game carry over to the next game, with the offending player being forced to sit out the first half of that following game. That seems excessive to me, and is basically a suspension for that player. For comparison sake, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half of last Saturday’s game for some off-field shenanigans that don’t need to be repeated here. Now his teammate, defensive back Deshazor Everett, will sit out the first half of this coming weekend’s game against Sam Houston State after being ejected late in last week’s game. Two very different violations of very different rules for sure, based purely on the basis of one being on the field and the other not, but that it will be essentially the same penalty feels wrong to me.
My biggest problem with the targeting rule is the term itself. “Targeting” implies that a player that is penalized under the rule was willfully attempting to injure an opponent. While that may be true in some situations, and it’s foolish to think that it’s not the case at times, I’d like to think college football players respect each other enough to make every effort to avoid hitting with specific intent to inflict injury.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.