The effort to minimize the risk of injuries in football continues.
The National Federation of State High School Associations officially defined targeting for its members Thursday, clarifying a rule already in place in Oklahoma but giving officials more power to protect players.
The NFHS defined targeting as “an act of taking aim and initiating contact to an opponent above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders.” The penalty is classified as illegal personal contact.
“Anytime you look at safety aspects of it, obviously football is a violent contact sport, but I think with all of this concussion talk in today's society you've got to protect a kid,” 24-year veteran Oklahoma City official Jeff Murray said. “We've always done that, no matter what it is, but this gives it more emphasis on it.”
The NFHS board of directors also approved eight other rule changes, including some changes to kickoffs and defining a “defenseless player” as “a player who, because of physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury.”
That falls in line with targeting, too.
For Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association assistant director Mike Whaley, this allows an emphasis to be placed in time for next season on the rule. However, he remains concerned with officials missing violations of the rule.
“We're going to miss some on both ends,” said Whaley, the director of officials across the state who serves on the NFHS rules committee. “We're going to call some that aren't and we're going to miss some that are.
“My stance is going to be since risk minimization is our goal here, if you've got any doubts you need to put your flag on the ground. If I'm going to miss it, I'm going to miss it on the risk minimization of the players involved.”
The idea of making an incorrect call has some coaches concerned.
They see NCAA officials missing calls on Saturdays during the fall, but those officials have the luxury of instant replay.
“I think probably as it is our officiating crews are probably understaffed and underworked,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “It's a difficult job that we ask them to do to have their eyes on every play. There's not as many officials on the field as in a college game and we ask them to do a lot of things. It's a difficult job.”