By Ty Halpin
The NCAA Football Rules Committee took steps to further protect student-athletes by proposing a rule to eject players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders.
The committee, which met Monday-Wednesday, unanimously voted to increase the on-field penalty for targeting. The penalty, if approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, will be a 15-yard penalty and automatic ejection of the player. The Panel meets on March 6 to review the proposals and membership comment.
“Student-athlete safety will always be one of our primary concerns,” said Troy Calhoun, chair of the committee and head coach at the United States Air Force Academy. “We all have a role to embrace when making a positive impact on our game. Taking measures to remove targeting, or above the shoulder hits on defenseless players, will improve our great sport.”
The action by the committee continues a progression to address dangerous contact through its rules. Targeting, which was initially approved by the committee as a separate foul in 2008, has been generally successful in terms of officiating application, which made the committee feel comfortable in adding to the penalty.
“The general consensus is that the officials on the field make this call properly the vast majority of the time and know what the committee is looking for with this foul,” said Rogers Redding, secretary-editor of the rules committee and national coordinator of officials for College Football Officiating, LLC. “This move is being made to directly change player behavior and impact player safety.”
The proposed rule will mirror the penalty for fighting. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.
The committee has also decided, in an effort to address concerns when one of these plays is erroneously called, to make the ejection portion of the penalty reviewable through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field. Additionally, a post-game conference review remains part of the rule and conferences always have the ability to add to a sanction.
Another area the committee has discussed in recent years deals with blocking below the waist. The past two years, the committee has adjusted rules governing these blocks in an attempt to remove some potentially dangerous plays from the game. The result has been a confusing and uneven rule that has not had the intended impact.
The proposed rule will focus on the block itself and allow these blocks in typical line play.
“What we’re trying to do is write the rule to protect the player that will need to take on this block,” said Calhoun. “So, the blocks from the front of this type in your typical line play are legal and anything that is from the side or back are not.”
Previously, the position of the player at the snap changed whether or not the player could block below the waist legally.
“This rule was hard to teach to officials, hard to teach to coaches and really difficult to understand overall,” said Redding. “That obviously wasn’t the intent and we believe our new proposal will clear up a lot of confusion and keep the positive safety elements of the rule in place.”
The committee also made several other proposals to improve the game. The committee proposed: