Why The NCAA Should Fix Targeting

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields gets hit by Clemson linebacker James Skalski during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New Orleans. Skalski was ejected from the game for targeting. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields gets hit by Clemson linebacker James Skalski during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New Orleans. Skalski was ejected from the game for targeting. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

When it comes to targeting in college, it has seemed to become a more controversial call as football is changing and growing. While this is an already rough penalty and rule, getting ejected is the icing on the cake for the call. While targeting is a reviewable call, I believe there is still another change or two left to be made.

What is Targeting

When it comes to older rules of targeting, it used to be called for only helmet to helmet hits. Now, the new rules have expanded to some of the following:

  • Targeting still carries a 15-yard penalty and the ejection of the guilty player, and those ejected in the second half of games have to sit out the first half of the next game.
  • But now there’s a twist: the conference office can now request a review from the national coordinator of officials for a second-half targeting penalty.
  • If it’s clear the player was wrongly flagged, that player can be cleared to play in the first half of his team’s next game.
  • Any “forcible contact” to the head or neck area of defenseless opponent
  • Leading with the crown of the helmet to make “forcible contact” anywhere
  • No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting

Its expanded now too that lowering the crown of the helmet around the shoulder pad to head area is called. The big reason this is called is for player safety, which is very important to everyone involved in the sport. You do now want people head hunting out there, so this is a good way to police it. However, there still is an issue with this rule.

The Issue With Targeting

This rule has just seemed to be a bit much right now. The guy was going for the ball and got ejected. This was even one of the first games to start out the season.

The biggest issue I have with the call is when it comes to the ejection aspect of it . Accident or not, if hit with a targeting call and it’s confirmed in college, you are ejected. Even if it was a bang bang play and you lower your head and the target zone moves, you are gone. Sometimes too these calls can swing moments in games.

While the malicious hits do not need to be in the game, this ejection rule just seems a bit too far for almost every single targeting call. That last play a guy just makes a play and due to the height of the tackle he happens to hit the guy a bit in the head. The player got lucky it was in the first half as well, or he would have missed a half from the next game.

The ejection aspect of this rule should be looked at. For example, most college teams play 12 games, maybe a one to three more max if they are lucky. If you get a targeting call, you miss pretty much a game’s worth of time. With how fast the college season is, and how fast players’ careers can go, this is a huge rule. For example, say someone is playing a school like Alabama, and upping his draft stock. If he got a targeting and ejected, it could hurt the player. The ejection aspect of targeting needs to have a rehaul.

As a former college player, these ejections can be huge too. Not only do you lose momentum, you can even potentially lose your best player. A rule that needs fixed with targeting is the ejection aspect.

My Fix to Targeting

The one way I could see making this rule better is to leave everything the same except for one thing. I would make this a two strike call. For example, the NFL made a two personal foul penalty rule after the Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman incident.

The same could go with targeting. To make it less confusing on the refs, they can leave all of the normal rules. However, when it comes to the review of the targeting, I think there should be very specific reasons to throw out the person. For example, the clear crown of the helmet to a defenseless players head. If you do not see these specific things, then the player gets his first of two strikes and the other team gets 15 yards. After this, play continues. Ejection would then happen when the player got another targeting call. If it is in the second half of the game, then regular targeting rules can take over if its in the second half of games. The big issue with targeting is the ejection. If hit with just one targeting call, this system allows the player to stay in.

Why It Should Be fixed

This is a call that everyone seems to really despise right now, as it seems as if some recently have not been the best calls. The rules of the penalty put refs in a hard spot. Even when they get it right people seem to still be mad. I get where they come from in calling it, but we could maybe help out the refs with this rule. Switching out for a two strike rule could help make this situation not as bad.

While safety is very important, I think almost everyone could agree the ejection is a bit far. When it comes to the game, we as fans just want to see the kids play. Adding in a rule like this could help not only the kids, but the game too. I’m curious to see the two strike system added in for targeting, and to see how much it could help the players and the game.

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