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NCAA committee pushing ejection for targeting defenseless players

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In its ongoing effort to improve the on-field safety of its players, the NCAA Football Rules Committee has taken a rather significant step to further prevent the targeting of defenseless players.

Among a laundry list of new proposals, the committee announced Wednesday that it is pushing forward a rule that, if passed, would “eject players who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulders.”  The penalty for targeting, which was first implemented in 2008, will still be 15 yards, but will also carry a semi-automatic ejection that could bleed into the next game.

If a player is ejected for targeting in the second half, that player would miss both the rest of that game as well as the first half of the next game.  A first-half ejection for targeting would not cost a player playing time the next game.

While the effort to increase player safety will, for the most part, be applauded, there is already concern/consternation over the definition of targeting.  Specifically, there is concern over officials, who are by and large human beings like the rest of us, maintaining some level of consistency as to what targeting actually entails.  The NCAA defines it as follows:

Rule 9-1-3 — No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.
Rule 9-1-4 — No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.

In suspending Ole Miss freshman defensive back Trae Elston and South Carolina defensive back D.J. Swearinger in back-to-back weeks last September, the SEC cited those very bylaws from the NCAA’s Football Rule Book.  Swearinger was flagged on the play in question, while Elston wasn’t.  Because of the inconsistency with which officiating crews from even the same conference view targeting, the NCAA is taking an additional step in an attempt to create some type of fairness for what could be a very punitive measure:

The committee has also decided, in an effort to address concerns when one of these plays is erroneously called, to make the ejection portion of the penalty reviewable through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field.

Individual conferences will continue to maintain the right to mete out additional punishment they deem necessary or justified.

“The general consensus is that the officials on the field make this call properly the vast majority of the time and know what the committee is looking for with this foul,” said Rogers Redding, secretary-editor of the rules committee and national coordinator of officials for College Football Officiating, LLC. “This move is being made to directly change player behavior and impact player safety.”

In discussing “measures to remove targeting… [that] will improve our great sport,” Troy Calhoun, chair of the committee and head coach at Air Force, said in a statement that “[w]e all have a role to embrace when making a positive impact on our game.”

It should be noted that this issue, as well as the ones coming below, are merely proposals at the moment and must still be reviewed by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel.  That panel will meet March 6 to conduct the review.

The PROP will also consider the following next month:

— To add a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock to stop is an injury.

(Note: in other words, this proposal will encourage teams with the lead to fake injuries to drain the clock?  Yep, got it.)

— To establish three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.

(Note: why the committee would feel the need to address this issue in any way, shape or form is beyond is head-scratching, unless it’s merely to save Les Miles from his inner Mad Hatter Clock Manager.)

— To require a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce this.

(Note: this will be forever known as the “Lane Kiffin Rule” and that is spectacular on several levels.)

— To only allow one player number to be worn by the same team and participate at the same position (e.g., two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).

— To require teams to have either their jersey or pants contrast in color to the playing field.

(Note: this will likely be referred to as the “Boise State Rule.” If passed, this would preclude the Broncos from wearing their all-blue uniforms on the famed/infamous Smurf Turf. Upon their “return” from the Big East to the Mountain West, the MWC had decided to allow that uniform combination after previously banning it.)

— To allow the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew after successful experimentation by the Southeastern Conference. This is not a required piece of equipment but will allow officiating crews to use this tool.

–To allow the Big 12 Conference to experiment with using an eighth official on the field in conference games. This official would be placed in the backfield opposite the referee.

–To allow instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously this provision was only in place for the end of each half.

Arizona facing more questions in its backfield

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Running back Nick Wilson #28 of the Arizona Wildcats carries the ball in the second half of the game Grambling State Tigers at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats won 31-21. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The personnel situation in Arizona’s backfield has gotten dicey all of a sudden.

J.J. Taylor picked up the injured Nick Wilson‘s carries in last weekend’s loss to Washington and rushed for 97 yards, but will be lost for a significant period of time because of a broken left ankle sustained in the same game. Now Wilson, who missed the UW game because of an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for the UCLA game because of that lingering injury issue.

Wilson originally sustained the injury early on in the Week 3 win over Hawaii, meaning the dreaded high-ankle sprain may be in play.

Taylor and Wilson are currently 1-2 amongst Wildcat running backs in rushing yards with 261 and 257, respectively. Wilson was UA’s leading rushers the first two games of the season, with Wilson taking that honor in Week 3.

Overall, though, quarterback Brandon Dawkins leads the team in yards (391), rushing touchdowns (seven) and yards per carry (8.9).

Dawkins will be making his fourth straight start in place of Anu Solomon, who began the season as the starter but hasn’t played since injuring his knee during practice leading into Week 2.

Nick Chubb’s dad says he doesn’t think UGA RB will play vs. Vols

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs the ball and is pursued by the defense of the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  The Rebels defeated the Bulldogs 45-14.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, it appears the dreaded high-ankle sprain has bitten one of the most snake-bitten running backs in the country.

In Georgia’s Week 4 loss to Ole Miss, Nick Chubb sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter and couldn’t return.  Kirby Smart has held his cards close to his vest this week when to came to Chubb’s availability for the Week 5 game against Tennessee, even as most, if not all of the signs pointed to the running back being sidelined for the key SEC East matchup.

Friday, Chubb’s father all but ended the mystery over his son’s availability, while simultaneously indicating that a Week 6 return should be in the cards — provided it’s not the usual lingering high-ankle sprain.

“I don’t think he’s going to play,” Henry Chubb told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s got that high-ankle sprain. He twisted it trying to make a cut against Ole Miss. He’s in good spirits and all. He understands it. The doctor said he’d need a couple weeks, so he’ll probably play next week.”

Chubb returned from a devastating knee injury that knocked him out for more than half of the 2015 season, rushing for career regular-season high of 222 yards in the 2016 opener in his first game back.  In his three games since the opener, however, Chubb has run for just 200 yards total.

Still, his 422 yards are far and away tops on the Bulldogs.  With Chubb out for at least this weekend, the running-game load will fall to Brian Herrien (184 yards) and Sony Michel (106).

Women’s advocacy group to fly anti-Trump banners over Big House, four other college stadiums

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Donald Trump tours the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on September 30, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A post-debate poll shows Trump's rival Hillary Clinton with a seven point lead in Michigan.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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The 2016 presidential election could be coming to a college football stadium near you.

According to the Kansas City Star, a women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet Action, will fly airplanes over five stadiums this Saturday to protest what the group describes as “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ‘long record of misogyny.'”  The five stadiums are Michigan Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Kinnick Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field and Wallace Wade Stadium.

The most high-profile of the five games will be in the Big House, with No. 4 Michigan playing host to No. 8 Wisconsin.

The planes that the group have commissioned to do the flyovers will tow behind them banners that read “Trump Says Women R Pigs. Disagree? Vote.”  The stadiums selected reside in the so-called swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The Star writes that “UltraViolet describes itself as a ‘powerful and rapidly growing community of people from all walks of life mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture.'”

Wisconsin confirms starting LB Vince Biegel ‘out several weeks’

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 17:  Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after making a tackle in the second quarter against the Georgia State Panthers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, the news when it comes to Vince Biegel could actually be a little bit worse than what was originally feared.

Yesterday, the Wisconsin linebacker’s father revealed that his son would be out as long as a month after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted into his foot.  In a press release, UW confirmed that Biegel did indeed undergo surgery Thursday night, and put the timeline at an ambiguous “several weeks” for a return.

The decision to undergo a medical procedure on what’s been a lingering issue was made after the player met with UW team physicians Wednesday and Thursday.

“I really hate any time a player has to miss time due to an injury, especially a senior like Vince,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “Vince has such a passion for football and loves playing the game. This team is very important to him and he is very important to our team. What you appreciate is that you know he will do everything in his power to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

At the bare minimum, Biegel will miss the next four games, a stretch that includes matchups with No. 4 Michigan, No. 2 Ohio State, Iowa and No. 15 Nebraska.

Biegel had started 29 games in a row for the Badgers.  At least initially, Biegel will be replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Zack Baun.