What is the Targeting Rule
In 2013, the NCAA Football Rules Committee officially enacted the "targeting rule" in college football. The rule penalized any player making forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless player. Those players guilty of this infraction would not only incur a 15-yard penalty, but they would also automatically be ejected from the game itself.
Given the increased preponderance of concussions suffered by football players at all levels, and the rapidly-growing scrutiny around head-based injuries leading to the diagnosis of, and complications with Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among former football players, the enactment of the targeting rule makes sense. If there's any way to legislate unnecessary contact to the head out of the game of football, thereby potentially helping with player safety, why not do so?
Possible Change in the Ejection Policy
And yet, NCAA Football Rules Committee secretary-rules editor, Rogers Redding, recently revealed that when the committee meets next month, it will consider an alteration to such a rule. Any such contact made by a player to another defenseless player's head will still incur the 15-yard penalty, but the committee is considering a "middle ground" solution to the ejection part of the penalty.
Currently, officials can either confirm their call of a targeting penalty, or overturn it after review. At present, if they deem the review as inconclusive, the player is still automatically ejected, per the terms of the rule. The new potential amendment to this rule will allow for players to stay in the game, and not automatically be ejected, if officials deem a replay as being inconclusive.
Opponents of Targeting Rule and Official Reviews
The biggest source of controversy with this amendment stems from the subjective nature of "official reviews." No matter how highly trained referees may be, it is impossible to define a clear-cut set of circumstances or protocols to judge as to whether a player was truly guilty of maliciously targeting the vulnerable areas of a defenseless player. Further, there are no clear-cut rules, circumstances, or protocols which can definitively say whether a player was guilty of targeting. Further, because of the high-speed, high-impact nature of football, the judgment of whether a player intentionally followed-through with a blow that could be considered targeting, or whether that player was trying to avoid such a blow, is even more difficult to fully determine.
There are some NCAA coaches who believe that the ejection component of the rule unfairly impacts a game. Players are taught to give it everything they have on every play, and asking them to exercise what could be seen as even more caution could take away from their overall play. So, why should a player, who's worked hard the whole week to participate in one 60-minute event at the end of the week, be penalized so severely for a momentary infraction? It's dangerous to put such a judgment-based decision, which could have dramatic impact on the outcome of the game, into the hands of referees. After all, shouldn't it be the player's job(s) to determine the outcome of the game?
Proponents of Targeting Rule
Those who are in favor of keeping the targeting rule intact, as written, point to two key factors. The obvious one is keeping player safety paramount. They believe that if the rule is harsh enough, it will have a lasting -- and positive -- impact on the way the game is played. At the end of the day, they believe that's the most important factor. Other proponents of keeping the targeting rule intact have a similar argument to those who want a middle ground, but in the opposite direction: they believe that such a "middle ground" exception could be giving officials a way to influence games, by allowing a player who potentially made such an infraction to still remain in the game.
There is always the "gray area," when it comes to officials judging penalties that take place during the course of the game. It's simply the nature of sports: each set of officials in each game tend to call plays a certain way, which are not always 100% consistent or congruent with each other.
The debate around this potential amendment really comes down to one key thing: how much weight should leadership give towards protecting the integrity of the games, versus the strict safety of the players?
Do NCAA college football fans really care about college football rules or do they just want to watch their team play a great game? Who knows? One thing we know for sure is that fans do want to support their team by wearing their college team apparel during the season and off season too. For those interested in personalized college jerseys you can read more here at: http://recreationandsportsworld.com/college/create-your-own-custom-college-football-jersey
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