More of your players may be ejected this fall. You might as well just get used to it now.
In February, the NCAA adopted a rule that will treat targeting equal to fighting, that is - an offending player will immediately be ejected for the remainder of the game. If a foul occurs in the second half or overtime, the player will miss the rest of that game and the first half of the following game.
While the NCAA's rules committee will expect to see the rule enforced beginning this season, those in charge of doing the enforcing head to the fall with questions and trepidation according to conversations with AL.com's Jon Solomon in his recent five-part series.
Though the NCAA says only 99 players would have been flagged if the rule was in place last season - accounting for a grand total of one percent of FBS games - expect that number to rise in 2013 as officials have tasked themselves with eradicating a widespread mindset from players. "I can show you video last year of how a player comes into a receiver, makes a high hit, sees three flags come in and he's back there chest-bumping his fellow players," SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said. "That mindset now has to go to, 'Oh, no, I'm out of the game.'"
Decision-makers in this process seem to be operating under a "when in doubt, throw the flag" mentality, and will have their decisions reaffirmed by the eyes in the sky. "But remember, if a player is ejected, replay is going to have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that he shouldn't be ejected," former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said.
But what about a play where a defender lunges for a player's chest, only to see him duck at the last second? Regardless of intent, the defender will watch the rest of the game from the locker room. "We've penalized that in the past and accepted that 15-yard penalty somewhat begrudgingly," American Athletic Conference director of officials Terry McAulay said. "I think you take it to a whole different level where you eject a player who has done nothing wrong. He may not even have hit him in the head. We make that mistake in real time because it's impossible to tell, 'Did he get him, or was he an inch and a half away?' Some levels of football won't have replay to fix that mistake."
Make no mistake, the consequences of their flags weigh heavily on these officials. That's why they'll be so eager to throw them. "We want officials to know if they get a little too anxious and they're wrong and throw the starting linebacker out of the game, we'll support them and we have replay to confirm," Big Ten officials supervisor Bill Carollo said. "If we really do care about these players 10 to 15 years from now, we have to change the rule. That's a big price to pay, but we're willing to take that risk."
Read the full series here.