Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, provides insights about rules changes and the mindset of college football referees. The CFO is the national professional organization for all football officials who work games at the collegiate level.
At its annual meeting in Indianapolis last week, the NCAA football rules committee took a major bold step to address the dangerous “targeting” fouls that are such a threat to the safety of the players. The committee unanimously recommended a rules change that would make automatic disqualification from the game a part of the penalty for these fouls. If approved, these new rules would take effect this coming 2013 season.
The two rules that will have this new disqualification component are Rule 9-1-3: targeting and initiating contact with the crown of the helmet, and Rule 9-1-4: targeting and initiating contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder. The word “targeting” is intended to convey the idea that the tackler is not just trying to make a good, hard football play but in fact appears to be trying to inflict injury.
There can be no doubt that these are very dangerous plays that simply must not be a part of the game of football. Concussions and spinal injuries have become extremely serious concerns of everyone. By taking this action the rules committee is sending the signal that it has the safety of the student-athlete at the very top of its list of concerns about the game. The clear intent of these new rules is to change player behavior by threatening to take away playing time. Players want to play, which is why playing time is the “coin of the realm.” The rules committee wants to protect this game and to help reduce critical injuries with this message: play the game hard but stay away from these serious fouls.
The rules committee is recommending a number of other changes that would take effect in the fall of 2013, and I will take these up in subsequent columns. The recommended changes now go to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will vote on their final adoption in early March.