NCAA Refs are putting an emphasis on player safety and while targeting has been in the rule books for awhile, fans still do not understand it. So what exactly IS targeting?
Targeting does not solely occur when players initiate helmet-to-helmet contact. It’s defined as occurring when a player “takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball.” Instances include, but are not limited to:
- Launch–a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area.
- A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground.
- Leading with helmet, shoulder forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area.
- Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of his helmet.
Defenseless players can be defined as any of the following, but not limited to:
- a player in the act of or just after throwing a pass.
- a receiver attempting to catch a forward pass or in position to receive a backward pass, or one who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier.
- a kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball, or during the kick or the return.
- a kick returner attempting to catch or recover a kick, or one who has completed a catch or recovery and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier.
- a player on the ground.
- a player obviously out of the play.
- a player who receives a blind-side block.
- a ball carrier already in the grasp of an opponent and whose forward progress has been stopped.
- a quarterback any time after a change of possession.
- a ball carrier who has obviously given himself up and is sliding feet-first.
Players can be automatically disqualified (following replay review) for violating two definable rules: Targeting and Making Forcible Contact With the Crown of the Helmet (Rule 9-1-3) and Targeting and Making Forcible Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player (Rule 9-1-4).
Targeting and Making Forcible Contact With the Crown of the Helmet (Rule 9-1-3)
- No player shall target and make forcible contact against an opponent with the crown of his helmet. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting. When in question, it is a foul.
Targeting and Making Forcible Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player (Rule 9-1-4)
- No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting. When in question, it is a foul.
So what does this mean? If it appears that the defender is leading with the helmet and makes contact with the crown of his helmet, it is considered targeting. However, if the player is considered defenseless and the defender makes forcible contact at the head or neck area, it is also targeting. By rule, if targeting is confirmed, the violator is ejected from the game. It should also be noted that the first rule is designed to protect the defender, while the second the receiver.
In regards to the Colorado game, why were both targeting calls rescinded and not result in an ejection? The first against WSU was not forcible contact with the crown of the helmet. Upon further review, the defensive back made contact with his shoulder and the contact at the bottom of the facemask was incidental. In regards to the targeting call against the backup quarterback for Colorado, the player was not defenseless, and the hit, while appearing to be forcible, was not intentional. Rather, the quarterback was turned around and then hit the returner with the helmet.
There are other occassions where players do make contact with others with the crown of their helmet. However, if the player is crouching and does not lift, or hits with the helmet and was low first and then the offensive player lowered himself as well, targeting is usually not called.
While it is not the rule fans like, it is one we are forced to endure until there is a rule change. The penalties does have its flaws. But with the NFL implementing the same rule, it is difficult to take it out of the game.