Timeout with Rogers Redding

Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, takes a look at player safety.

PLAYER SAFETY: THE FOCUS OF RULES AND OFFICIATING

For about the last decade, the NCAA football rules committee and the officiating community have focused their attention almost exclusively on player safety. Because high-speed collisions are part and parcel of the sport, there is always a standing tension between the game that matters so much in our culture and the physical well-being of its participants.

Targeting is perhaps the most significant player safety rule of the last several years. Its purpose is to reduce head and spinal injuries to defenseless players. Examples are a pass receiver whose concentration is on making a catch, a quarterback who has just released a pass, and a punt returner about to catch a kick. The targeting rule is also intended to discourage players from self-inflicted injury when they tackle or block by leading with the crown of the helmet.

Key elements of the rule are indicators of targeting. These are all characterized by a player attacking an opponent with forcible contact. By “attacking” we mean that the player is apparently trying to punish his opponent, rather than making a hard but legal tackle or block. Some of the indicators are: a launch, whereby the player leaves his feet to propel himself at the head and neck area; an upward thrust from a crouch; or deliberately lowering the head to make forcible contact with the helmet.

The seriousness of the targeting foul is reflected in the penalty: disqualification from the game and suspension from the first half of the next game if the foul takes place in the second half. In 2019, the rules committee added a progressive penalty. If a player commits a third or more targeting foul any time during the season, not only is he ejected from that game, but he must also sit out the entire next game.

The role of Instant Replay has also evolved over time. Beginning in 2019, the instant replay official must either confirm or overturn the ruling on the field; the option of “stands” is no longer a possibility for the targeting foul.

As we approach the 2019 season and the exciting 150th anniversary of college football, the rules community and the officials are confident that these changes will strengthen football by continuing to make it a safer sport.