CFB Refs Have Sights Set On Targeting Fix

Denzel Ward Ohio State Football Buckeyes

The 2019 college football season is an off-year regarding rule changes, at least regarding game play. When it comes to player health and safety, however, rules are constantly up for review.

Five new rules have been implemented this season, and all five are safety related.

Tweaks to the targeting rule is the most significant change, but that’s not the only change.

Two-man wedges on kickoff returns have been eliminated and if they occur, it will be a 15-yard penalty. Blindside blocks — with force — have also been eliminated. Officials want to eliminate decleaters where players have no opportunity to protect themselves from a block. This will also be a 15-yard penalty.

Blocking below the waist is also now outlawed for the defense just as it is for the offense.

The final non-targeting change involves overtime. When a game gets to the fifth overtime, the ball will move from the 25-yard line to the 3-yard line and each offense will have one down to score a 2-point conversion. Each successive overtime will proceed in this manner as long as necessary to determine a winner.

But now let’s get to targeting, which is defined below.

Easy to understand, right?

The first major change with targeting is that when it goes to review, the play can no longer “stand.” It must be confirmed. If it does not get confirmed, there will be no penalty.

“All elements of targeting have to be confirmed, meaning that there won’t be a stance — ruling on the field last year, if we weren’t sure, the play would stand, and that player would be disqualified,” Bill Carollo, the Big Ten Coordinator of Football Officials said last week at Big Ten Media Days.

“This year, all elements have to be confirmed. If not, the player stays in the game. That might be about 10 percent of plays last year, based on the numbers last year, we’ll have 10 percent possibly less targeting calls this year. And here’s the idea behind it and the thinking and the rationale. We want to get this play correct. It’s a very important play as far as health and safety, but it’s also the penalty is our largest penalty, so we want to make sure that we get that correct, and if we aren’t sure, the player will stay in the game.”

In addition, if a player commits three targeting calls in a season, he will be suspended for one full additional game.

With such significant penalties for targeting, Carollo has long been asking the officials in the Big Ten to either confirm or overturn targeting calls. Last year, his official had zero “stands” calls on targeting, meaning they confirmed or denied, and now this rule goes nationwide.

But fans, coaches, and players probably shouldn’t expect everything to be fixed, because even with the rules and demands put in place, targeting is still often in the eye of the beholder.

“We spend probably most of my time on targeting, and they’re our toughest calls, and I always take them to meetings with our coaches, we vote on it and we don’t get 14-0 that’s targeting or not targeting,” Carollo explained. “It’s split a lot of times 7-7 what they’re looking for. There’s a lot of gray area in this area. It has to have some indicators. They have to launch. They have to thrust upward. They have to attack.

“They have to use the crown of their helmet or hit a defenseless player above the shoulders. Those are the basic — that’s black and white. That’s pretty easy to understand. But it’s got to be forcible contact in an attacking manner that’s more than just playing the ball, making a tackle, making a block. So it has to be more than that.”

In the past, the officials were told to lean towards targeting. If they weren’t sure, then it was a penalty. That same order of march continues for the referees on the field, but Carollo wants the replay officials then to clean up the targeting calls that didn’t need to be made.

He is essentially asking the on-field officials to be okay with being wrong and being corrected, and he is also putting pressure on the replay officials to make a call using all of the available angles that they have.

“When we aren’t sure, the rule said we threw the flag on the field, the rule said the call is going to stand unless you can overturn it beyond all doubt, okay,” he said. “So if we don’t have the right angle, we aren’t really sure, ‘is that enough force,’ we’d say the play stands, and we’d go with the call on the field, which is the right answer. We had too many marginal calls, too many ticky-tack fouls, too many on the margin, just on the edge that, ‘boy, they could have passed on that.’ Well, we’re going to get rid of that. Now it’s going to be tougher for my officials, especially in replay. Either it is or it isn’t, and I think that’s important. So we might have a few less. We’re not backing away from it.

“We tell the guys, when in doubt, throw the flag. Replay has technology, excellent technology, slow motion, just like you have at your homes or during the game. You can see it. So you talk about transparency, there’s clearly — everyone sees it immediately. You see it before my officials see it. But we tell the officials, throw the flag, replay, your job to fix it.”

14 Responses

  1. It will not be very long until women will be playing football.

  2. Glad to see all the toxic masculinity being removed from football. So, will each team be able to select their own flag color/colors or will the NCAA mandate all teams use the same color flags? Will players be required to wear multiple flags or one? How will the flags be attached to the ladies? I suggest velcro.

  3. On running plays the entire offensive line could be called for targeting and the way our nations morals are declining I wouldn’t put it past a ref to throw the game for some extra cash.

    Yes, I agree the game is getting as soft as ballet…for the ladies.

    1. My family and I make jokes about how long some reviews take – as if the booth has hot lines to the respective team boosters taking bids on the call. In my biased opinion, TOSU has been screwed, jacked and cheated on calls and non calls for years. Remember the “safety” on Boom Herron in the Sugar Bowl? No forward progress my ass! Ward ejected for a beautiful hit on Jacobs in the 2017 Maryland game. Pryor hitting “defenseless” Hamler at Penn State last year. Fuller hitting Rafdal of Nebraska as he was falling down – target!!! How about the Purdue game last year. We punt and down the ball on the 3/4″ line and the refs put it on the 2 yard line. They gave them the 1st play – get out of the end zone – for free!!!!! That drive sucked in so many ways. Fumble forward?? No problem 1st down! Can we get a targeting call when Haskins slides and gets clipped in the helmet? Of course not even though there was clear contact. If the Buckeyes even fart on an opposing members helmet it is clear and egregious targeting!!! Last year especially, I felt the refs had it in for us because of the BS Zach Smith situation and the fabricated, BS racism accusations. Probably every fan feels that way but it sure seems our Bucks get poned more than other teams

      1. What the he’ll is an opposing member?

    2. Gotta love old people and their revisionist history. “Declining morals”? Do we prefer the segregation of the 60’s? I guess the pedo coach at Penn State and pedo doctor at our very own Ohio State were millennials, who just started acting out on their sordid impulses? Hard to imagine what the Catholic priests will do with altar boys now, that our nation’s morals are declining, compared to their behavior and subsequent coverup in the 80’s-90’s. Watergate. The Communist “witch trials”. Introducing crack cocaine to America to pay for guns to Nicaragua and cash to Iran. Tonya Harding. John Wayne Gacy. The Green River Killer. The mafia. Bill Clinton’s fugly mistresses. Dead people voting for JFK. Jimmy Hoffa. 30% of our Vietnam vets coming back hooked on heroin. 100% of our Vietnam vets ostracized and outcast for involuntarily participating in a war/action that the majority of the country didn’t want or approve of. Mobile. Montgomery. Fire hosing civil rights protestors (or murdering them, if they happened to be in Mississippi). College hazing. Acceptable child and spousal abuse. Yep! Declining morals indeed!

  4. I’ll tell you where are these weak minded rules are coming from, and it’s got Z E R O to do with player safety. It’s about taking the the brute physicality out to force women into the game.

    1. Did anybody actually read the article or the new rule(s)? They’re not adding to what could or could not be considered “targeting”. They’re literally still using the same definitions as before (which, yes, admittedly are “soft”); they’re just eliminating the “automatic” ejections by forcing the reviewer to confirm the split second judgement call on the field. In past, recent years, if there “wasn’t enough evidence to rule one way or t’other” they let the call on the field stand, and a Bosa gets ejected. Now, they have to confirm that the kid was actually turning himself into a missile to target a defenseless player, or else the Bosa gets a pass. And a defender attacking a running back is by definition NOT defenseless. They are the ones attempting to initiate contact. So a running back lowering his head and lunging forward to gain extra yards, as his body was physiologically designed to do, shouldn’t be called for targeting, as the supposed target in this case is more than aware of his presence and is usually attacking the rb, or at the very least attempting to initiate contact. Well… discounting our defenders last year led the nation in targeting gaps and forgetting about ball-carriers.

      1. Michael- yes, I read the article. I’ve also watched the same large group of officials make a mess of the rules which are the topic. They aren’t trained uniformly, are timid about overruling one another, and adding more thought process does NOT fill my heart with optimism. My comment about running backs was actually sarcastic, but they are NOT acting naturally or “as their bodies are intended or designed” by lowering their heads- and they do in fact initiate helmet to helmet contact with intent. This term targeting needs removed from the landscape, not refined. It’s reminiscent of how the NFL clown show folks can’t define what a “catch” is. It is artificial, contrived, contrary to the spirit of the sport, and absurdly applied. There is no way to make it uniform or proper because it’s very nature is outlandish.

      2. Did you read the article, Michael? There are other rule changes for “safety” reasons besides the tweak to the targeting call. In essence, the NCAA continues to remove physical violence from the game a little piece at a time thinking no one will notice they are now watching soccer. Let the flops begin.

  5. All of this sounds like it’s moving in the correct direction to get the calls right. Should be an improvement, but of course, the proof will be in the pudding.

  6. James- you beat me to it! Aggressive running backs commit Targeting by definition, yet not ONE will be called all season…in addition, the notion of throwing the flag because the booth can overturn it if wrong, is just absurd. It encourages lack of thought for the on field official, paves the way for even more delay in an event that already takes too long, AND it presumes the booth official has the guts to reverse his pals. Not very promising.

    1. EXACTLY. Plus it weakens the game and it’s starting to make it boring if you’re unable to attend games. Being there is fun no matter what, but the casual couch potato is going to start to turn America’s greatest pastime, into a yawner like baseball, which like gold, is fun to play, but better than the strongest sleep aid known to mankind to watch.

  7. We were taught to crouch up our head up and drive up and through the tackle. So by the new definition 100% of College players are taught to commit targeting. Running backs tend to lower their head/shoulder when driving for extra yards, or even setting defenders up for cuts, pivots, spins etc. If the criteria is subjective…..but err on the side of caution, they’ve taken tackling with force and technique OUT of the game of football………..TAG football, just like the Buckeyes Spring Game, and it’s frigging ridiculous. If a player goes on the field, he’s not defenseless. If he is, the foul should be on him for laziness, lack of focus, and pure ignorance.

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