The targeting rule isn’t a particularly popular one among fans, especially when it alters the outcome of a game by sending a key player to the locker room early. But officials are calling the penalty more than ever and a possible expansion of the rule ensures targeting ejections are just something fans will have to get used to.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee began its three-day meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday and targeting is at the top of the agenda.
“Committee members plan to talk about whether instant-replay officials should have even more flexibility when it comes to judging whether a targeting foul occurred,” the NCAA said in a press release. “Additionally, the committee will consider allowing the instant-replay official to stop the game and enforce a targeting foul that was not detected by the on-field officials.”
In 2013, targeting was called just 55 times, according to Jon Solomon of CBS Sports, but was called 115 times during the 2015 season. With an increased emphasis on player safety, officials err on the side of caution, especially after the rule was altered in 2014 to allow an instant-replay official to overturn the penalty and ejection.
“Our guys (officials) know that they will be in more trouble if they don’t call it than if they do,” SEC supervisor of officials Steve Shaw told Tony Barnhart of Gridiron Now.
Much of the criticism of the penalty stems from inconsistent application of the rule. Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Moseley was called for targeting after a hit on Kentucky’s Garrett Johnson that caused a fumble on Oct. 31. The penalty wiped out the turnover for the Vols and ended Moseley’s day, despite the fact that replay appeared to show the cornerback leading with his shoulder.
But in a September game against Louisiana-Monroe, a targeting call on Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson was overturned after a replay, even after it appeared to show him lowering the crown of his helmet into the facemask of ULM quarterback Garrett Smith.
According to Solomon, one other possible adjustment to the rule is adopting college basketball’s flagrant foul rule and assessing penalties without ejections for less egregious infractions. That proposal was previously rejected though, and wasn’t raised as a possibility in the NCAA’s release about the rules meetings in Orlando, Fla.