When in doubt, it is a foul

A bad rule gets worse.

On Tuesday the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel decided that the targeting penalty had been such a huge success that the only thing they needed was more targeting penalties.

More TargetingThe Panel voted to allow replay officials “to stop the game and create a targeting foul.”  You remember the replay officials don’t you?  They’re the ones sitting in a booth who get to take their time and review calls in slow motion, repeatedly, from different angles.  Then, despite all this, they routinely blow calls that everyone watching at home can see.  Yeah, those guys.  They are going to get to stop the game and make up calls now.

Routinely?  Isn’t that taking it a bit far?  I don’t think so.  In the NCAA’s own release look at what they say:

The NCAA Football Rules Committee believes players were incorrectly disqualified from games in a small number of cases last season.

The Committee acknowledges that the rule penalized people that it should not have.  So what do they do?  Do they decide to make the rule more clear? No.  Do they decide to rewrite the rule? No.  Do they take out the language that makes every hit a foul unless proven otherwise? No.  They are going to make sure more people get called for targeting.

Officials are humans, and they make mistakes.  The general feeling is that those mistakes will even themselves out over a period of time.  For all the targeting calls that get improperly made, there will be others that are missed.  Not anymore.  Now the NCAA wants more targeting fouls called.  This is insanity.

The targeting rule (actually two rules 9-1-3 and 9-1-4) has some terrible language written into it.  The language is “when in question, it is a foul”.  Scant attention has been paid to this expansive language, which is a shame because it is one of the big issues with the foul.

Whenever a coach complains to an official about a missed call, he almost always gets the same explanation.  The official will explain that he “calls what he sees” or he “calls them like he sees them”.  This is standard practice for all fouls.  There isn’t a foul for holding unless the official sees holding.  There’s no offsides unless the official sees it.  The assumption by the officials is that there is no foul unless they see it.  This is correct.

The targeting rule changes that.  It sets out the elements of a targeting foul and then adds that bad language.  If an official isn’t sure if someone is offsides, he doesn’t throw the flag.  If an official isn’t sure if it’s targeting, he is directed to throw the flag.  “When in question…”  That means if a hit is questionably targeting a flag should be thrown.  Not only should it be thrown, but according to the letter of the law, it is a foul.  That’s a poorly written rule that has led to poor application and more than its share of controversy.  It boggles the mind to understand why the NCAA wants more of this.

According to a strict reading of the rule any hit on the field that is unquestionably not targeting, is a foul, and a player needs to be ejected.  Now replay officials will get to get in on the action too.  There will be more fouls, including more incorrect ones.  That will be great for the game.

About Billy Koehler

Billy Koehler is the founder of ThirdDownDraw.com and a contributing writer at DixielandSports.com. He has been covering college football since 2006. You can follow him on twitter @billykoehler.
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