One of the common running jokes every Saturday in the fall is the understanding, or more accurately, the misunderstanding of the NCAA’s targeting rules. The main problem seems to be no one can clearly answer the most basic question — what is targeting?
If coaches can’t properly explain it, how are they supposed to coach their players to avoid it? That’s a question Jeremy Pruitt asked this fall following a game when he himself was asked how he coached his players to avoid getting called for targeting.
“I realize our officials have a tough job, I realize that. I’ve not seen the play. I have no idea whether the play was targeting or not. I don’t know what targeting is. I watched two games before I came over here and they threw targeting fouls. Once they replayed them, they weren’t targeting fouls. I would have said both of them were. So, I obviously don’t know,” Pruitt said following Tennessee’s win over Charlotte, which featured an ejection of cornerback Alontae Taylor.
“I don’t think anyone does, to tell you the truth. I think we need to come to a common ground as coaches, officials and everyone involved because we all want the same thing, we want to protect our game, we want to protect our players, that’s what we want to do. That’s what the rule is there for. I just want to coach it the right way and I hate that guys have to suffer by maybe poor technique.”
While coaches want what’s best for the game and want to ensure the best possible health for their players, having a rule that few can comprehend must seem counterproductive to many.
Will Muschamp offered up an amendment to the rule this fall when he suggested varying tiers to targeting. The South Carolina coach suggested a yellow card, red card system like in soccer and that idea appears to be gaining some steam.
“I think they outta, like they have in soccer, yellow cards and (red) cards and all that? Well, some of these are malicious contact. Kick a guy out if it’s malicious contact,” Muschamp suggested leading up to South Carolina’s game at Vanderbilt. “But if it’s not malicious contact, if you want to give him a 15-yard penalty, that’s fine but we are going to kick a guy out of the game because he’s tackling a guy on our sideline — the guy weighs 220-pounds and he’s barrelling down? That’s what I think.”
There’s a chance Muschamp relayed the idea to American Football Coaches Association Executive Director Todd Berry soon after, as Berry offered up an official suggestion from the AFCA on Wednesday during the organization’s 2019 coaches convention from San Antonio.
Berry offered up the idea of a Targeting 1 (no malicious intent, 15-yard penalty) and Targeting 2 (malicious intent, ejection) penalties moving forward. Multiple Targeting 2 fouls could equal longer suspension, according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN. This proposal seems very on point with Muschamp’s suggestion.
For those questioning the power of the AFCA, they were instrumental in getting the new redshirt rule, which allows players to compete in up to four games and keep their redshirt season, passed by the NCAA for the FBS level. While the AFCA does cannot make rule changes, they offer suggestions to the NCAA on an annual basis on issues such as targeting and rules for the sport.