Targeting rule draws increased scrutiny
More than 50 major-college football players have been flagged this season for delivering high hits that can result in automatic ejection under the targeting rule. But almost 30 percent of those players were allowed to stay in the game when video replay revealed the call was in error.
Seattle Times news services
ATLANTA — More than 50 major-college football players have been flagged this season for delivering high hits that can result in automatic ejection under the targeting rule. But almost 30 percent of those players were allowed to stay in the game when video replay revealed the call was in error.
The reversals underscore the difficulty of making such calls in real time and the problem of a quirk in the rule that leaves a 15-yard penalty in force even when instant replay overturns an ejection by finding no targeting occurred.
The targeting rule, which forbids hitting defenseless players above the shoulders or delivering a blow with the crown of the helmet, was strengthened this year for the best of reasons: player safety. Amid increased awareness of the risk of concussions and other head injuries, the new ejection penalty was seen as a way of forcing necessary change in how the game is played.
Nevertheless, the evolution has stirred controversy since the start of the season, escalating last weekend when four high-profile teams — Florida, Georgia, Ohio State and South Carolina — had players ejected. At least three of those ejections were for hits that the teams’ coaches considered less egregious than the rule was designed to prevent.
In all, seven players were called for targeting in FBS games last week, with two of them allowed to stay on the field when their automatic ejections were overturned by the replay official. So far this season, 52 FBS players have drawn targeting fouls, with 15 of those players — 29 percent — reinstated to the game after video review, according to figures obtained from the NCAA.
The NCAA’s football rules committee adopted the targeting rule in 2008, but stiffened it this year by adding ejection to the existing 15-yard penalty. Referees were instructed to call the foul when in doubt. If the foul occurs in the second half, the player also must sit out the first half of the next game.
“The new element of automatic disqualification as part of the penalty was added because the committee felt that only having a 15-yard penalty was not severe enough punishment,” NCAA spokesman Cameron Schuh said. “The committee’s belief is that we needed more in order to get the players’ attention about the seriousness of these fouls.”
The NCAA believes the threat of ejection is working because targeting fouls are down from last season — one per 9.2 games this season compared with one per eight games last season.
• Colt Lyerla, the former Oregon tight end who left the team earlier this month for what he called personal reasons, was arrested Wednesday night on a charge of unlawful possession of cocaine, the Lane County (Ore.) Jail confirmed. Lyerla also was charged with interfering with a police officer.
• Four female officials will be working a game between Division II Miles and Lane in what appears to be a first. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, an Atlanta-based league comprised of historically black schools, said Thursday night’s game at Miles will mark the first time a mostly female officiating crew has worked any NCAA football game.