Several rules changes will take effect in the 2013 college football season, the most notable involving the so-called “targeting” rule.
During Big 12 Media Days recently, Walt Anderson, coordinator of Big 12 officials, spent time with members of the press and broadcast media that cover the Big 12 explaining the new rules for the coming season, which begins in a little over two weeks.
The targeting rule has certainly during the off-season generated the most questions from members of the media, probably as well as the public,” Anderson said, “and they’ve certainly generated a lot of interesting questions from our coaching staffs.
“There are four types of plays that are probably going to encompass about 98 percent of the targeting actions you’re going to see on the field,” he said.
Anderson identified the four types of situations as 1) hits on receivers, 2) roughing the passer, 3) hits to the guy holding the football (which could be a quarterback, or may be a runner, and he’s in an upright or sliding position), and 4) a blind-side block to a defensive player, which is a new category this season.
One of the things that the Big 12 has worked on with its officials during this past off-season, Anderson said, is understanding the difference between high-risk actions by players that lead to targeting and low-risk actions that really should not be considered targeting and should not be called.
The officials will be specifically looking for four key actions when considering a targeting infraction, a penalty, incidentally, that will include a 15-yard walk off and, this season, can result in an automatic ejection for the offending player. The four factors that will lead to a targeting penalty are launch, thrust, strike and using the crown of the helmet to hit an opposing player above the shoulders.
A” launch” is when a player leaves his feet and attacks a player in an upward direction in the head or neck area. A ‘thrust” is similar to a ‘launch,” except that the attacking player does not leave his feet, but still forcefully hits the player in the neck or the head. The key componemt of a “strike,” Anderson said, is “it doesn’t matter what you hit the head with, you’re just striking thye head and neck area,” and with intent.
Using the crown of the helmet is when a player intentionally lowers his head and uses the top of his helmet to spear or punish an opponent. It really doesn’t matter where you hit the player if you lead with your helmet.
A team can appeal a targeting penalty, but if an official replay review confirms the call on the field, the penalty will stand, as in all replay-booth reviews.
Anderson said there were 17 targeting penalties called in Big 12 games last season, and a replay review would have reversed five of the calls.
“You’re going to have big hits in football, and there’s nothing wrong with that, and we need to be celebrating big hits,” Anderson told USA Today’s Sports Weekly. “But what we don’t want to celebrate and what we’ve got to get out of is this culture of targeting where really we’re celebrating an illegal act, a potentially very dangerous act.”
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops expressed the feeling held by many of his coaching peers when he said: Hopefully they’re getting it right (when the officials call targeting), because that’s a big penalty, to have a guy tossed out of the game.”
Two other rules changes that will come into play this season in college football involve the helmet coming off a player’s head in the course of or f0llowing a play on the field and blocking below the waist. If a player’s helmet comes off while he’s on the field, he will still have to come off the field for one play, the same as last year. Only this season, if a team has time outs left, it can use a time-out in place of having the offending player sit out a play.
College football is adopting the NFL rule this season that deals with stopped play for an injury when the game clock is under a minute to go in either half. If there is less than a minute left on the clock and a player’s helmet comes off or there is a stoppage for an injury, the affected team will either have to use a time-out or have an additional 10 seconds run off the clock.
Regarding the rule involving blocking below the waist, the general rule is that the only time a player can execute a block below the waist on another player is when the block comes from the front. An exception to this is when the block occurs in the so-called tackle box area – or along the line of scrimmage on a line that extends seven yards either side of the snapper and five yards into the defensive secondary - and the ball is still in that tightly aligned zone. As long as the block takes place when the players are already in a low stance amd on the line of scrimmage, along with the ball, a block below the waist can occur from the front or from the side without being in violation of the rule.
For the most part, the college rules will remain the same this football season, but there are some changes that everyone involved with the game are going to need to be aware of and understand in the coming season. The NCAA Rules Committee is always examining the rules to try to make them more fair and safer for the players, Anderson said, and to try to bring a little more objectivity to the decisions made by the officials and give the officiating crew some tools with which to help players and coaches in terms of doing things within the rules.