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New NCAA Targeting Rule in the Eye of the Beholder

By on September 11th, 2013 in Football 16 Comments »
rrdnX.AuSt.70 - Kriss frost

                          Auburn Line backer Kris Frost is cheered by fans as he leaves the field.

Ever since Auburn Defensive back Jonathan Mincy was ejected from the spring game for being flagged for targeting, I’ve wondered when we would see a player thrown out during a regular season game.

Well it only took two games as the answer came Saturday night when Line-backer Kriss Frost was ejected after a late hit on Arkansas State Quarterback Adam Kennedy. The penalty prevents him from playing in the first half of the SEC opener against Mississippi State.

As you might expect, it was a very unpopular flag with the home crowd. Fans voiced their displeasure for the call with a chorus of boos. Most felt like it was just a football play. After all replays showed no helmet to helmet contact. If anything, most expected Frost to be called for roughing the passer or a late hit but not targeting.

Fans were not the only ones confounded by the call. Defensive End LaDarius Owens said Sunday. “I saw it but I guess I didn’t understand the rule. I thought it was if you led with your helmet. I just thought he gave him an elbow or something.”

Well what Owens and the rest of us learned Saturday is two things: One, the crown of the helmet does not have to be involved. Frost made contact with his arms above the shoulder. Second, and more importantly, what constitutes a violation of the targeting rule is in the eye of the beholder (the official’s eye that is). Here-in lies the problem. What’s a violation in one refs eyes may not even be a personal foul in another.

Take for instance when North Carolina’s Brandon Ellerbe drove his helmet into the helmet of South Carolina punt returner Vic Hampton as he lay defenseless on the ground and — was not flagged for targeting. Or when Washington State’s Deone Bucannon (who has a rep for making hard, high tackles) put one on Auburn Running back Corey Grant in the Tigers’ opener and — was not flagged for targeting.
 
In fact, time after time Cougar defenders were bringing down Auburn runners with high hits that were obvious to everyone in the stadium – except the refs. At times it look like the defender was trying to tear an Auburn player’s head off – yet no one was flagged for horse collaring much less targeting. Those hits were much more egregious than the one that resulted in getting Kris Frost ejected from the Arkansas State game.

Frost hit was borderline at best and certainly not worthy of ejection. From where I sat, it appeared he was committed to the tackle but pulled up and shoved off on Kennedy. He probably should have drawn a flag for a late hit or maybe even roughing (cough cough) the passer but it wasn’t deserving of  an ejection.

The rule has been on the books for five years (without ejection being a part of the penalty) but last season there was only one targeting violation in all of college football. The first weekend of this year there were six. I tend to agree with Jeric Griffin of Rant Sports who said, “Either call it when it’s warranted or don’t call it at all. The only time that it’s really warranted is if a player is intentionally trying to hurt another player. That’s what the name implies, right? Typical NCAA hypocrisy.”

Don’t misunderstand, I support the targeting rule. How could someone not support a rule designed to protect players from serious injury. It’s the inconsistency that comes with human judgment that I question. At some point a league or national championship game may be affected by a ref’s call that even he is doubtful about.

The Southeastern Conference Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw said this summer that, “The rule book says that, when in question, (or there is doubt) it’s a foul.” So in other words a player can be ejected even when the ref himself is in doubt.

This ought not be the case. What the NCAA should do is change the rule to read helmet to helmet and flagrant use of the arms or elbows to inflict hits to the head shall result in ejection.

Leading with the helmet and head hunting should not be tolerated. However, to suspend a player for an entire game when no helmet to helmet was involved for what may at best be unnecessary roughness or inadvertent arm contact above the shoulders is not right. It’s just too much of a judgment call by the officials. Besides, football is a rough game, that’s why they call it a contact sport.

16 Comments

  1. Malakai Malakai says:

    One I first saw the hit I thought it was helmet to helmet. It only took me one replay to see that Frost had his arms up. Was the hit late? Most definitely. Was Frost leading with his arms or head and making contact with the player above the shoulders? Unfortunately another yes. Those are the rules.

    What I find more puzzling about this is that Owens, or ANY Auburn player would be confused about this particular rule when it got Mincy ejected from the A-Day game. Auburn coaches should have addressed ALL of the players as a group and explained the new rule to them. I blame the coaches for this.

    No Frost’s hit wasn’t vicious, but it was late and above the shoulders and those actions are all the criteria that is needed to be ejected.

  2. AUfor50 says:

    break out the flags! when are we going to powderpuff?

  3. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    “What I find more puzzling about this is that Owens, or ANY Auburn player would be confused about this particular rule when it got Mincy ejected from the A-Day game. Auburn coaches should have addressed ALL of the players as a group and explained the new rule to them. I blame the coaches for this. ”

    That’s just silly if you think they haven’t been over this ad nauseum. They even had referees in to go over it. Everyone has been talking about it. In the heat of the moment, things happen. Plenty of times players have tried to let up or stop their actions but momentum carries them farther than they are expecting. It is a violent game and there are going to be HARD hits. It’s not like we are the only team that has been penalized. And won’t be the last.

    What the discussion is about ~ it is still a subjective penalty. Humans are administering the penalty. There will be calls that are not correct. Hopefully, replay will help cover those. But in the end it is still someone’s decision and so far they seem to be far and wide on what REALLY constitutes this penalty. Later in the game, (can’t remember who) almost got his head taken off ~ no penalty ~ not even pass interference. Then they called a silly penalty on the next play as if to make up for missing that one. And so on and so forth. It’s like that every game. WAIT UNTIL THE SEC REFS GET GOING. They are horrendous. So I am sure we’ll see more nonsense this Saturday.

    #StateHate #GusDelorean #MarshallPlan #WarEagle

  4. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    I think Frost’s hit fit the penalty and was a good call and stupid on his part. It was completely reactionary though. Coaches expect the players to play wide open and tough with a chip on their shoulder, these things happen. I’m all for protecting these young men, they are basically fodder for the BIG college football industry. Yes, they get free education – if they can use it after they are brain dead from taking hits since they were 8 years old. Yes, free room and board and the chance to be the hero but fodder nonetheless. These penalties will make coaches lose sleep and they will slow the game down and forever change the landscape but what do you do???

    These guys are way bigger, faster, stronger than we were when we played the game and now because of helmet technology, these guys are human missiles and use their heads as weapons. Remember when William Perry was the freak of nature. Now, every roster has a couple… It sounds radicle but I think if we downgraded the helmet protection and you would start to see these guys quit leading with their heads. I wonder what the neck/head injuries debate is like over in the sport of rugby??? At best, they just protect their ears…

  5. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    I agree unless it’s helmet to helmet or throwing an intentional elbow at the head, it should be treated like a personal foul with no ejection. I too saw Washington State players trying to “tear an Auburn players head off” and the officials did nothing. Something needs to be done to protect the players but this ain’t it. It’s a bad rule and should be changed or at least educate the refs to call it the same everytime even if it sends five or six guys to the lockerroom. Either change it or call it everytime.

  6. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    In my opinion, Frost’s hit on Kennedy was a late hit/personal foul at best. His ejection and subsequent first half suspension is asinine.

    The targeting rule is complete and utter nonsense. How is a 6’6″ guy supposed to effectively tackle a 5’8″ guy without occasionally, unintentionally going head to head? Turn that around consider the shorter guy tackling the taller guy. Is a knee targeting rule next? How is any defender going to tackle anyone without occasionally, unintentionally going head to head? Some may find this shocking but a ball carrier can change position after a potential tackler has committed to how he is going to do his job. To my knowledge, it has not been proven that anyone can read another person’s mind, so how can a referee decide that a tackler intentionally targeted a ball carrier, receiver, etc. Of course there are OBVIOUS exceptions. The plain old personal foul call is tough enough to call. Now idiocy has added another degree of difficulty to an already tough job.

    Football is and always has been a very physically demanding sport. Injuries are part of the game an no rule, short of eliminating contact, is going to change that.

    End of rant. Hope I didn’t offend anyone. If I did it was unintentional : )

  7. Malakai Malakai says:

    “That’s just silly if you think they haven’t been over this ad nauseum. They even had referees in to go over it. Everyone has been talking about it. In the heat of the moment, things happen. Plenty of times players have tried to let up or stop their actions but momentum carries them farther than they are expecting. It is a violent game and there are going to be HARD hits. It’s not like we are the only team that has been penalized. And won’t be the last.”

    I agree, but I was speaking directly to THIS POINT-

    Fans were not the only ones confounded by the call. Defensive End LaDarius Owens said Sunday. “I saw it but I guess I didn’t understand the rule. I thought it was if you led with your helmet. I just thought he gave him an elbow or something.”

  8. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Pass interference, intentional grounding, and holding have long been “judgement” calls and have incurred the ire of many fans. Now we have the targeting rule which is the ultimate judgement call. When it is not a black and white situation like lining up offsides for instance, you will always have the whims of the officials to deal with. Personally, I don’t think the officials themselves truly understand the new rule. If they did, there might have been 6 or 7 ejections in Saturdays game…or none at all.

  9. gumptowntiger says:

    The rules are the rules when it comes down to it. All the new rules to protect players will take time to get used to. Old habits die hard.

    My problem was the total number of penalties and what they were for. Just stupid stuff that shows a lack of discipline. I don’t know how you are supposed to run a fast paced offense that relies on early first downs when you have false starts and holding calls.

    I know it is early, but I want to see someone worked up when a player earns a stupid flag on any play, but especially one that stalls a drive or calls back a TD.

    I will say it is going to be tough missing Frost in the first half Saturday. If we are going to be reliant on Holland to make the plays we are going to be in trouble. Other than being in the right place at the right time for a fumble recovery he was a non factor in the game against Ark State.

  10. restless6 says:

    Since the NCAA is a stickler for rules, let’s see how they deal with a legit paper trail and thorough investigation by Yahoo Sports regarding DJ Fluker getting paid while at Updyke U.

    Look for the Yahoo report, complete with documents of proof.

    I guess his Twitter wasn’t hacked after all. ;-)

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      It’ll be entertaining just watch and listen to the inbred nation squirm, rationalize, and sweat.

      I’ll be highly surprised if they don’t hire someone to fling some poop at us.

      • restless6 says:

        Finebaum has been downplaying the Okie State stuff all week long. He knew this was coming.

        Drop the hammer on Alabammer.

        Guilty!!!!

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      ……There’s a lot of smoke here, and it appears Fluker did receive the money. The real question, as far as NCAA penalties go, is whether the NCAA defines this agent as an Alabama booster. Then you’ve got what did the Alabama administration know about it, and when did they know it?

      …..Folks, given the recent slaps on the wrist “penalties” the NCAA has handed out, I wouldn’t get too excited about the Fluker stuff.

  11. restless6 says:

    ESPN now says Mark Barron also got paid!

    The wheels are coming off!!!

  12. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    After watching the replay on my TiVo repeatedly in slo-mo I can honestly say he did not Lead with his head, hit him above the shoulders, or launch to make the hit…. We have been told these are the three things that constitute “targeting” and that it takes one of these things to justify the suspension.

    This is very disturbing that the replay official did not overturn this suspension and even more so that Malzahn isn’t up in arms about it. If someone doesn’t clarify what should warrant the call and subsequent suspension or better yet hold the officials to a standard when calling this penalty…. Then the refs could essentially decide the outcome of multiple games with nothing more than a very subjective call.

    This is not what football should be… Protect the players but also protect the integrity of the game.