One of two FBS coaches on the NCAA Football Rules Committee said Monday that he expected the new targeting penalty will get a hard look in the offseason after the backlash it’s received.
“Right now, it’s radioactive,” said Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry, a new member of the committee. “I don’t think there’s any question that there’s going to be a lot of impetus towards making some adjustments to that rule. I think even the officials are struggling with it at this point and time.”
Georgia had two targeting penalties called against players in its upset loss at Vanderbilt Saturday.
Defensive end Ray Drew was ejected on a call that some viewed as questionable. Inside linebacker Ramik Wilson’s targeting foul was overturned by video replay, though the Bulldogs were still assessed a 15-yard penalty, as the rule requires, to keep a Vanderbilt scoring drive alive.
The rule is meant to protect defenseless players from dangerous hits above the shoulders during an age in which tacklers launch their bodies and concussions are a growing concern. The ejections were added to the penalty this season. South Carolina and Florida also had players ejected for targeting this weekend.
Though Wilson was ejected initially, the replay review allowed him to stay in the game. The penalty still proved costly to Georgia because Vanderbilt got a first down.
“Obviously the one with Ramik was a good clean play and the officials after reviewing it felt the same way,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Because of the rule as it states, you still have that 15-yard penalty even though the replay they felt it was a clean play. My guess is that will be one of the hottest topics on this rule is whether or not you’re going to review it and let a guy stay in the game because you don’t think it was targeting than you might possibly take the penalty away.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who lost cornerback Bradley Roby to an ejection Saturday after he was called for targeting an Iowa player, told reporters on Monday: “I think that the NCAA and everybody is going to want to re-look at that rule … make sure we’re doing the right thing for player safety, but understand the devastating impact on that game when you’re out. I’m interested to see what’s going to happen down the road.”
Berry, who, like Richt, is a member of the American Football Coaches Association board of trustees, wasn’t on the committee when the targeting penalty was approved in February, but will be one of two FBS coaches serving on the 12-person committee. The other coach is Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, the chairperson.
“It was my understanding based upon the information that was passed upon us at the board meeting that [the review] was a little bit of a protection for the officials,” Berry said, “but I think in the process it’s been a little bit more of a lighting rod.”
Georgia followed the Southeastern Conference protocol on communications with the league office in response to the targeting calls, athletic director Greg McGarity said on Monday. That’s for Richt to communicate with SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw or other appropriate SEC staff members.
Berry said even if a targeting penalty is overturned, he could still see the reasoning for yards being marked off because there still could be two fouls on the same play — for instance a late hit along with targeting.
“There could be two fouls within the same play and we need to view it along those lines,” he said. “That’s my opinion. … I need to actually hear some more information in terms of clarifying my own mind about why they did what they did because obviously from a common sense standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Added Richt: “I’m sure a lot of people would say if you’re reviewing it, why don’t you go ahead and change the penalty if it was called incorrectly? Maybe you can just have it in that wrong case. We’re talking about a safety rule. That might make sense. I can understand why they didn’t want to do it because they didn’t want to open up a Pandora’s Box on that because if you review that then why don’t you review pass interference, why don’t you review all kind of stuff like that? It would just take too much time. Since you are reviewing it anyway, it might be one that they make an exception for in the future.”
The SEC hasn’t commented about the targeting calls on Georgia beyond putting out a release during the game detailing rule 9-1-4, with certain words capitalized.
Shaw told The Birmingham News earlier this month: “Maybe we look at making the targeting foul a special case where we allow replay to come into that judgment and say if only targeting is involved, and it’s not deemed targeting, we could take away that 15-yard penalty. But that crosses into a very slippery slope of officiating from the booth. A lot of purists have never wanted us to go over that line.”