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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Knee Jerk Reactions: The Targeting Rule

Wild on Sports
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Knee Jerk Reactions: The Targeting Rule
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

The Jadaveon Clowney play might be one of the single greatest defensive efforts ever seen; he broke through the line, met the running back as he got the ball, dislodged the ball and the player’s helmet, and then grabbed the ball with one hand. However, the NCAA is modifying the “targeting rule,” which has been used to penalize players 15 yards for hitting defenseless players above the shoulders, to allow for the ejection of players for such hits.

Both the NCAA and NFL have been taking strides to help improve player safety, especially with the concerns around concussions. Both groups have enforced penalties for contacting defenseless players above the shoulders, often resulting in 15-yard penalties Players will now be automatically ejected for contacting defenseless players above the shoulders, as well as still having a 15-yard penalty enforced on the team. However, if a player is ejected in the second half of the game, they will miss the rest of the half, as well as the first half of the next game. The set up of the penalty is basically the same as the current penalties regarding fighting, which have been modified since some of the brawls a few years ago. The penalty is at the referee’s discretion, but an official can review the consideration for ejection and overturn the call, if applicable. However, like all reviewable plays, the official needs conclusive visual evidence in order to overturn the call on the field. Conference officials will also review the play after the game and can add to, or reduce the suspension.

While the NCAA has taken proper steps to try and enforce the rule as fair as possible, it still requires human judgment, which can differ from referee to referee, and is extremely apparent in regards to the Clowney hit. The officiating coordinator of the ACC recently said that Clowney would be ejected for his hit, while Steve Shaw, the officiating coordinator of the SEC, said that Clowney’s hit would still be legal under the rule. Other than the obvious conference bias, the difference in perspective from referee to referee, in regards to hits, could cause problems for players and coaches. Defensive players will likely have to adjust their style of play in order to accommodate the new penalties, more than the new rules.

By modifying the targeting rule, the NCAA has tried to enforce player safety, but in reality, it is taking away what makes football one of the best spectacles to watch, big hits. Plays, like the one that Jadaveon Clowney made, are reminders of how much talent and physical ability that the players have, while enforcing perfect technique. As Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers player paralyzed in 2010, posted on Twitter “No way #clowneyhit is illegal. Take it from a guy who broke his neck.”

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