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February 13, 2014

I know it when I see it: the NCAA's approach to targeting

I missed this when I first read the rule proposal on targeting:
However, if the targeting foul is committed in conjunction with another personal foul, the 15-yard penalty for that personal foul remains. For example, if a player is called for roughing the passer and targeting the head and neck area, but the instant replay official rules that targeting did not occur, the player flagged would remain in the game, but the roughing the passer penalty would still be enforced.
Two things come to mind. First, doesn't this beg the question of the need for a targeting penalty? If we already have rules in place to protect players (such as was noted in the above passage), is there the need for another penalty? I only ask in half jest, as it feels like this is less about protecting players and more about protecting arguments in future law suits. Unless we want to start calling for targeting in down field clip/chop block scenarios, or where the QB or a kicker becomes a hunted target when the ball is turned over to the defense. Second, we are still way too worried about the feelings of officials.

Officials have one of the toughest jobs in sports. I don't discount that. I also get that they are being pulled in many directions, but there is one thing that is clear: the NCAA doesn't want officials thinking they should hold back in calling penalties. The bigger problem remains, though. Each group of officials is being managed by the conferences. We saw a wide disparity in what was called, and how officials called it, with the targeting penalty was called last year.

Which gets me to my last point. since we don't want officials hesitating in calling player safety penalties, then it would follow that there is no need to guess a penalty. Either it happened or it didn't. A good example would be Ramik Wilson's penalty against Vandy last year. It was a clean hit; a textbook example of how a linebacker playing middle zone delivers a hit on a crossing receiver. So how would the officials call it under the new regime? Two flags - one targeting and the other unnecessary roughness? Does that fix the problem of enforcing a penalty that never happened? If video review is going to be used to determine if it is a good call, then there is no need for two flags.

If the conferences want to help officials out, they will put them in fewer judgement call situations. That was one of the reasons they provided guidance on the celebration penalty. That gets back to the original point: this is less about player protection than it is preserving future factual arguments about the steps the NCAA took to protect players.


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