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.

Drag racing accident leads to arrest for Mississippi State commit

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Mississippi State commit Nathaniel Watson has gotten himself into some legal trouble before his arrival at Mississippi State. Watson, currently a high school senior, was charged with assault first degree and a handful of traffic violations following a traffic accident earlier this month. Another student from Watson’s high school was arrested for reckless endangerment and other traffic violations as well. The two are accused of drag racing.

“The accident occurred after Tyrone Davis, also a student at [Maplesville High School], lined up in front of the school with his vehicle along with Nathaniel Watson’s vehicle for a race, witnesses stated that they lined up side by side and floored it, and both vehicles were squalling their tires and fishtailing up the highway heading into town,” according to an Maplesville Police Department press release (via The Clanton Advertiser). “As the racing vehicles topped a hill, an oncoming car caused Nathaniel Watson Jr. to swerve and lose control striking a power pole, cutting it in half and knocking power out to portions of Maplesville.”

A passenger in Watson’s vehicle suffered a crushed femur, fractured pelvis, a broken right arm and internal injuries. Neither vehicle involved in the accident was insured. Watson currently awaits a date in court in a county court. There has been no update or comment from Mississippi State’s football program or head coach Joe Moorehead about Watson or his status with the football program at this time.

Watson signed with Mississippi State on February 7. The wide receiver and two-sport athlete signed with Mississippi State over Auburn.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.

Georgia football coaches all getting well-deserved raises

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File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).

Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.

What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.

Purdue raises $388,000 in beer and wine sales at football games

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Around the nation, college football attendance took a downward trend, but the Big Ten was the rare conference to see an increase in attendance. At Purdue, not only did more fans attend games in the first season under new head coach Jeff Brohm, but Purdue saw a revenue surplus fueled by the expanded sale of alcoholic beverages at football games.

According to The Journal & Courier, Purdue athletic department recorded $567,000 in gross revenue, of which $388,000 was generated from the sale of beer and wine last fall at football games in Ross-Ade Stadium. It was the first time alcohol sales had been expanded to the entire football stadium, as opposed to limited offerings in premium sections of the stadium.

“In general, it was very positive and it added to the game day experience. Fans responded to it,” athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “We’ve talked to our concessionaire group (Levy Restaurants) about how we can improve the operation so we don’t create bottlenecks and long lines that cause people to miss extended periods of the game. It was a really good start.”

The success of expanded alcoholic beverages at football games at Purdue continues a growing trend of alcoholic sales at athletic events around the country and will only help to encourage other schools to explore similar options if they have not already. Ten schools in the Big Ten already offer alcohol sales to fans at football games, but Purdue is just one of four to currently offer the sales throughout the majority of their football stadium.

The games that saw the most amount of money spent on alcohol at a Purdue home football game were the Michigan and Indiana games, with $88,341 and $98,223 spent on alcohol, respectively. Bottoms up, indeed.

The other chunk of revenue that helped pad Purdue’s budget sheet was a season-opening game in Indianapolis against Louisville. The game was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and each school received a check for $805,267.