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College football: A closer look at the NCAA's targeting rules

Berry Tramel breaks down targeting and the details of the NCAA's rules on targeting.
Oklahoman Modified: July 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: July 18, 2013

Berry Tramel breaks down targeting and the details of the NCAA's rules on targeting.


The only difference in targeting rules for the 2013 college football season is the enforcement. Players penalized for targeting now must sit out the rest of the half and the next half, whether it's the second half of the current game or the first half of the next game.

The targeting rules which already were on the books:

Rule 9-1-3: Targeting and initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.

Rule 9-1-4: Targeting and initiating contact to head or neck area of a defenseless player. No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul.


Ninety-eight percent of target fouls occur on four types of plays:

1. Hits on receivers.

2. Roughing the passer penalties.

3. Hits to the ball carrier, either the quarterback or a runner, in one of two positions, upright or going to the ground.

4. Blindside blocks.

“The first thing you want to do in officiating is take care of the things that most frequently occur,” Big 12 director of officiating Walt Anderson told the officials he was instructing last weekend. “Learn to recognize these types of plays. The possibility of targeting is high. Our attention relative to targeting needs to be high.”


Replay review will play a major role in the targeting enforcement. A few things to know about replay as it relates to targeting:

* Replay cannot create the targeting penalty. In other words, if targeting is not called on the field, it can't be added by a replay official. Which means coaches cannot challenge a no-call on targeting.

* Coaches can challenge a penalty for targeting. However, they can only challenge the disqualification. If the replay official rules it was not targeting, the player is not disqualified. However, the 15-yard penalty stands.

* For the conferences with replay review, there is no appeal process to the conferences or the NCAA. If a flag is thrown for targeting and the ruling is upheld by replay, the offending player is ejected for the rest of that half and the next half, even if it's the next game.

* For conferences without replay review, an NCAA committee has been set up to handle appeals. If the committee rules the infraction was not targeting, the committee can remove the disqualification.

* Referees have been asked to identify the form of targeting, when announcing the penalty. For example, launching, striking the head, leading with the crown. However, upon replay review, that particular offense is not mandatory to uphold the penalty. If striking was announced but replay review shows that launching instead occurred, the disqualification stands.

* Replay officials have been given the same guidelines for identifying targeting — the same high-risk and low-risk indicators — as the on-field officials.


Walt Anderson addressed approximately 330 officials last Saturday during the College Football Officiating clinic at the DFW-North Marriott.

The primary mission of the Big 12's director of officiating was to get the crews from seven conferences up to speed on the targeting penalty.

“When we leave, we want to be very thorough on what is targeting and what is not targeting,” Anderson said.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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