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.

One of the important rules changes for 2013 is one that is critical for helping to promote the safety of the players.  The new penalty for “targeting” fouls now includes automatic disqualification from the game.  If the foul occurs in the second half the player also is suspended for the first half of the next game.  In games where Instant Replay is available, the ejection portion the penalty may be reviewed; if it is determined unequivocally by video review that the player should not have been ejected then he returns to the game.

As we discussed in earlier columns, a targeting foul is where a player takes aim at a defenseless opponent and attacks him at the head or neck area, or where a player gets a bead on an opponent and attacks with the crown of the helmet.  The penalty was stiffened in an attempt to change player behavior in blocking and tackling.  The intent of the rules committee in making this change is to preserve the great features of football as a contact sport while at the same time recognizing that this targeting action should be eliminated as a matter of safety.

The first four weeks of the season show promise that the new rule is having an impact.  In the 271 games officiated by FBS crews, there have been a total of 26 targeting fouls.  This works out to one foul in about every 10 games.  In 2012 the average in FBS contests was about one in eight games, so the trend is in the right direction.  There is still a lot of football to be played, but the early returns show that players may be changing how they approach the game.