At this year’s ESPY Awards, South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney won the honors for the best play of the year. The play involved Clowney delivering a bone-jarring hit and dislodging the ball and helmet of a Michigan running back. Now, less than a year later, with new NCAA rules on targeting, the same play could result in a penalty and subsequent ejection.
The rule change was announced in a memo sent to the NCAA Head Football Coaches, Conference Commissioners and Coordinators of Officials on March 18:
Targeting and Initiating Contact With the Crown of the Helmet (Rule 9-1-3)
No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.
Targeting and Initiating Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player (Rule 9-1-4)
No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul.
(Note: Beginning in 2013, ejection from the game is part of the penalty for violation of both Rule 9-1-3 and Rule 9-1-4)
During the first weekend of the college football season there were 10 players ejected for violating the new target rule, but upon further review three were overturned. In Week 2 there were four more targeting penalties with all of them holding up under further official review.
Despite the significantly lower ejection totals in the second week, coaches are still not warming up to the new rules. Alabama coach Nick Saban questioned the logic of the rules during his press conference on Monday.
“Personally, on the rule itself, if you can review a play to say a guy should be ejected or not be ejected, to me, you should be able to review if it was a penalty or not a penalty,” Saban said.
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