The NCAA knows that head injuries are a problem, and they initiated the targeting penalty as a result of it. While the rule has only been enforced the past few seasons, there has been an alarming increase in targeting penalties being called in 2017, according to an Associated Press report.
National coordinator of officials Roger Redding told the AP on Wednesday that “55 targeting penalties have been enforced in 214 games (0.26 per game). Last year at this time, 35 targeting penalties had been enforced in 230 games (0.15).”
Targeting enforcement is one of the biggest complaints from college football fans since its inception, but it is a move that was made to better the safety of the game. Complaints or not, there are often calls that fans will never agree with–targeting being the focus of complaints more often than not.
Safety is important — especially in the game of football — but when targeting is called an automatic review is initiated of the play. Where fan frustration comes into play is when the play does not fit within the targeting rule, or at least appears to not be a fit.
If unfamiliar with the targeting rule, a penalty flag is thrown if a player hits an opponent above the shoulder — especially the head and neck area — with the crown of the helmet. Although, any blow to the head and neck area is reviewed. The play results in a 15-yard penalty if upheld, and the player is then ejected for the rest of the game.
Bill Carollo, the Big Ten coordinator of officials, said that the numbers speak for themselves and are very alarming.
“I fired off an email to a few people to say we need to do something about this,” he said. “Let’s not wait until the end of the season. Not let’s wait to do a study. I don’t have all the answers, but it needs to get to the level of commissioners, athletic directors and partnering with coaches,” via the AP report.
The most concerning part of this is that the institution of the targeting rule was supposed to make the numbers of these hits decrease. But as stated, the opposite has taken place.
Until football coaches and athletic directors ask their personnel to change how they play, targeting calls will likely continue to rise as the NCAA tries to clean up the safety of the game of football. And if ejections aren’t enough, don’t put it past the NCAA to look at other ideas to resolve the issue at hand.