The NCAA made it known it was serious about reducing — or, attempting to reduce — head injuries when the Playing Rules Oversight Panel ruled in March that any player flagged for targeting a defenseless player would be automatically ejected from the game.
That rule will apply nationwide beginning this season, and the Big Ten conference is apparently taking it to heart. Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network attended a gathering for conference officials on Saturday and noted that the Big Ten’s front office is telling officials to always err on the side of calling the foul.
Targeting penalties will be subject to immediate video review as well as additional review on Mondays, but it seems the only way a player flagged for targeting can avoid ejection and/or suspension is if there’s conclusive video evidence to the contrary.
That could be tough to prove. The new Big Ten stance, as Dienhart reports, is “When in doubt, throw him out.“
The decision to eject players for targeting applies to all leagues, the Big Ten just plans on going by an interpretation of the rule that has basically no wiggle room (Dienhart relays that fans should “get ready for ejections” this fall).
Targeting is a judgement call, and the speed of the game makes any judgement call difficult. Now that call carries stiffer consequences. In the Big Ten’s case, it also leans toward throwing the flag not necessarily because it’s the right call, but because the official feels it’s close enough to merit the penalty. To overturn it, the video crew needs to be 100 percent certain the call on the field was wrong.
Good luck with all that.