NCAA considering adjusting targeting rule, letting defenses substitute


The NCAA Football Rules Committee has proposed an alteration to the 15-yard targeting penalty and a rules change that would allow a defensive substitution that would slow down hurry-up, no huddle offenses.

Targeting Penalty

The rules committee proposes that an overturned targeting penalty foul would not result in a 15-yard penalty. This past season, the ejection to the player could be overturned upon review, but the 15-yard penalty still stood. Now, the committee has proposed that if the player ejection penalty is overturned, the 15-yard penalty would also.

This needs to happen, but it’s one year too late.

Related: The targeting penalty killed several teams throughout the season

Defensive Substitutions

The targeting penalty changes will get all the headlines, but the defensive substitution proposal would be a complete game changer.

Related: SEC coach hammers new NCAA proposal

The rules committee is proposing to let defenses substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, with the exception of the final two minutes of the half…all in the name of player safety, via

“This rules change is being made to enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute,” said Calhoun. “As the average number of plays per game has increased, this issue has been discussed with greater frequency by the committee in recent years and we felt like it was time to act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes.”

The offense wouldn’t be allowed to snap the ball until the play clock reached 29 seconds or less, and if it happens, a 5-yard delay of game penalty will be enforced.

Under the current rules, defenses don’t have the opportunity to substitute players in and out if the offenses don’t. That’s why Auburn and Texas A&M, among others, have created favorable matchups and keep their foot on the gas pedal.

Related: Nick Saban & Bret Bielema lobbying for what would benefit their teams

Let’s call this the Bret Bielema and Nick Saban rule. Both coaches are proponents of defenses substituting, and both have been outspoken against up-tempo offenses. Bielema has been a critic of the style of offense in the name of player safety.

The release said the committee discussed the issue at length before ultimately coming to the conclusion that defensive teams should be allowed some period of time to substitute.

All rules proposals must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel held on March 6th.

Photo Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports



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  • I got an idea. Stop messing with the game! People like it how it is. That’s why so many people hated the targeting rule. Did no one really stop to think about if the call was overturned there would still be a penalty? Taking away the hurry up offense takes away an element of offensive strategy. Defenses should condition their players to adapt and overcome. What’s next? Two hand touch and everyone has to wear bubble wrap?

  • As a recruiter and game planner, Saban is a master. However, as an in-game, especially a tight game, Saban is an average coach at best. He does not adjust well during the flow of the game, same as Bielema, and this is only solution. NCAA studied this for years my ass. How about instead of bigger, faster, stronger we reverse it back to smaller, slower, and weaker.

  • Something about this doesn’t make sense… A DELAY of game penalty for going too fast??? How bout THEY stop delaying play by making stupid rules.

    • Could not agree more. Not sure how its possible to get a delay of game for going fast. And the rule is absolutely stupid as an Ole Miss fan who likes to see his team go tempo every time they have the ball

  • Here is a short exceprt from a book I read by Chuck Klosterman: “President Theodore Roosevelt sees a photograph of Swarthmore lineman Bob Maxwell walking off the field after a game against Penn, and he’s so utterly pummeled and disgusting that Roosevelt (despite being a fan) decides that football needs to be outlawed. This becomes a hot-button issue for a year. Finally, Roosevelt decides that football can continue to exist, but only if some of the rules are changed. One change increases the distance needed for a first down. Another legalizes passing, which has been going on illegally (but often unpenalized) for decades. Essentially, Roosevelt decriminalizes the passing game. And this decriminalization actually makes the rules of football easier to comprehend: Previously, it had been unclear how referees were expected to enforce a penalty for forward passing — there wasn’t a rule against passing, much as there isn’t any rule against making your slotback invisible. How do you legislate against something no one had previously imagined? When an illegal forward pass was used by Yale against Princeton in 1876, the ref allegedly decided to allow the play to stand after flipping a coin. Action had evolved faster than thought.

    Interestingly, Roosevelt’s rule changes did not significantly alter the violent nature of college football; by 1909, the number of nationwide deaths from football had risen to thirty-three. But these changes totally reinvented the intellectual potential for football. It was like taking the act of punching someone in the face and shaping it into boxing. Suddenly, there were multiple dimensions to offense — the ball could rapidly be advanced on both its X and Y axis. The field was technically the same size, but it was vaster. You could avoid the brutality of trench warfare by flying over it. It liberalized the sport without eliminating its conservative underpinnings: Soldiers were still getting their skulls hammered in the kill zone, but there was now a progressive, humanitarian way to approach the offensive game plan. Size mattered less (Knute Rockne’s 1913 Notre Dame squad was able to famously slay a much bigger Army juggernaut by out-passing them), but it was still a game where blocking and tackling appeared to be the quintessence of what it was about. It was at this point that football philosophy forked: There were now two types of football coaches, as diametrically opposed (and as profoundly connected) as Goldwater and McGovern. By portraying itself as the former while operating as the latter, football became the most successful enterprise in American sports history.” My point is that the game has been evolving since day one, if it hadn’t we would be watching a very different game today–there is no reason to panic. All will be well, just go with it.

    • The big difference with what is happening now and what is happening with Roosevelt is that Roosevelt expanded the game’s options. This rule change would reduce offensive options. A major strategy is the rapid fire hurry up no huddle. It makes for one of the more interesting offenses in the game. Take it away and offenses start to become the same. The defenses can rest and the game gets really slow and boring. And what do you do if it’s the end of the game and you want to spike it with 8 seconds left? You can’t. You have to wait the full 10 seconds and guess what, you just lost.

      • Where, i really am not sure how i feel about the rule. I do want to point out that your example is mute. The rule stated “except for the final two minutes of the half” there is more then one half of a game. So the final 8 seconds of the game is within the final 2 minutes of the second half.

        • The 2 minute rule makes no sense anyway. If their whole reason for this rule is player protection, then it wouldn’t make sense for them to allow you to go HUNH in the final two minutes of a game. That is when a defense is most fatigued

        • My apologies. I didn’t catch that part the first time I read it. Regardless, If you are down to the last minutes of the game, chances are, if the offense is down, they are trying to stop the clock and think about plays. If you are out of timeouts and can’t get out of bounds is the only scenario this makes sense. But I agree, defenses will be the most fatigued at the end of the game anyway which, according to the NCAA would be the highest chance of them getting injured right? I just see no point in this rule.

  • The targeting penalty issue should have been changed immediately after it was realized how STUPID it was to keep the penalty after overturning the call. I realize there would have still been a team or two that suffered from the rule, but it’s better than numerous teams being victimized by the rule throughout the season.

    As for the substitution rule, that is BS, and I don’t mind saying that knowing that Auburn would benefit from the rule not being enacted. Offensive strategies will always change and defensive strategies will always need to adjust. It’s just the nature of the game. Player safety overall is a legitimate concern, but hiding behind it in this instance is lame. A player’s safety is no more in danger due to a HUNH offense than it is due to a conventional offensive scheme.

    • Thank you, Dawg. I couldn’t agree more. And I definitely agree with the targeting penalty. Which, to me, is the reason Vandy beat y’all. The substitution rule is just comical. I’ve yet to see an injury that was caused because of the HUNH.

      • There was an injury in the Iron Bowl. Some guys had “Hurt Feelings”. :-)

      • Don’t forget all of the “injuries” where players were just falling over to slow the offense down.

        • If anything, this is about the only real negative side effect of the HUNH. While I’m not naive and recognize that some players are instructed to feign injury to slow down the offense, it makes me sick that any player who is injured during a HUNH drive is automatically presumed to faking it and is booed by the fans of the team running the HUNH. Booing accomplishes nothing, so players should be given the benefit of the doubt and shouldn’t have to hear booing while they are on the ground and in pain.

      • Yeah, I definitely had the Vandy game in mind for my previous comment and it definitely is the most prominent example I can think of as far as the targeting rule directly impacting the outcome of a game. Probably because I’m a Dawg.

        • Na. It’s the one that sticks out in my mind. I’m definitely no bulldog, but I always call it like I see it. That was without a doubt what gave the game away. UGA would have had the ball back if they didn’t have that rule about the penalty still being enforced. But i’ve yet to figure out why the flag was thrown anyway. It didn’t even look like he hit him in the head. It was pretty evident he was hit in the chest. One of the worst targeting calls I saw all season. There was also a bad one against South Carolina that same day in Knoxville.

  • Why should coaches have to adjust to innovative offenses? They barely get paid enough to survive as it is!


  • The only people screaming are the fans and coaches of teams that can’t compete heads up. Play any option you want but to plan and hope to win because the other team can’t substitute is stupid.

    • The only people that are complaining about the hurry up offenses are the ones that can’t stop it. It’s part of the game. If other teams have to learn how to stop their power offense, why shouldn’t teams have to learn how to stop another team’s hurry up offense?

    • Yes, God forbid teams with lesser talent try to find ways to beat the Bamas of the CFB world. Why stop at forcing teams to allow the defenses to substitute? Why don’t we force every offense to play from a classic I formation, with one TE and two WRs? Let’s go even further and allow only one play to be run. That way, player safety is at a maximum because the defense will always know what it is coming and can prepare for the blocks, where the ball will be, etc. On top of player safety being maximized, we’ll always know which team is better “heads up.”

  • Also, Jon, if the NCAA is so concerned about player safety, what is the logic behind adding a playoff system that will add more games to the season? That’s more games of “violent” hits and players having to run up and down a field.

    • Yeah. Player safety is just the veil the proposed changes are hiding behind.

      • I played soccer growing up. try running and sprinting in a soccer game for 45 minutes in a half. Every play? I could understand if a play series lasted like 10 plays…. then having a required substitute chance i could sympathies. but needing one every play? nah.

  • The supporters of slowdown seem to have this perception that the Hurry up teams have an advantage. We don’t, we have to defend against the same thing. Take the Championship game where AUburn did a much better job then Mizzou of exploiting this and handed us our butts. The “wait we need to get our behemoths off the field”, seems to indicate a one dimensional type of player.

  • I think we have enough rules already, why put some stupid rule like this on the books. They did not outlaw the wishbone when it was popular. Teams had to learn how to defend against it. Same with the fast offense. When teams learn how to defend against the fast offense teams will move on to another type offense. The NCAA does not need to tell teams how they play the game.

  • A&M fan here and heres what i think! i think its unfortunate that a few coaches are able to force a change based on a safety issue that hasnt been documented!~ but os be it! – if the change takes place, i will take an offense that is set and prepared to hike the ball at the 10 sec mark over a team that is trying to substitute one line up for a different one – are there 12 men on the field? or 10? are they going to be able to be switch out, be set and ready for what the offense has prepared? are they prepared to cover the substitutions that the offense might make during that 10 seconds? its a stupid rule change, but i will still give the advantage to the offense in that situation!~

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