NCAA committee pushing ejection for targeting defenseless players


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.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.