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Targeting rule worked in Big 12 Conference last year

COMMENTARY — Either Big 12 football was remarkably clean, or the league’s defenders were scared straight. Big 12 crews called just eight targeting penalties last season, and four of those were wiped out by replay review.
by Berry Tramel Published: July 18, 2014

Oklahoma State did not lose a player to disqualification last season, and defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said that shouldn’t be a surprise.

“It really wasn’t something we had on our mind all the time,” Spencer said. “In (August) camp, we enforced the rule, we showed ’em some video of it. But the way we teach our base tackling … to be honest with you, it wasn’t a big issue.

“They usually get what you emphasize. If you sit there and preached, ‘you really gotta try to hurt somebody every snap, and we reward that and we encourage that, you’re trying to put somebody out of the game,’ I think that’s what you would get.

“But our emphasis is to try to get off the field. Try to tackle. Try to get the ball back for our offense. You get what you emphasize. You’re not trying to hurt this guy. Lot of times, you try to do that, you’re going to have bad tackling technique. You’re going to whiff.”

Last season, if the replay official ruled a targeting penalty was invalid, the disqualification was removed but the 15-yard penalty stood. That was a silly rule and everyone knew it. It’s gone. Now, if the targeting is wiped out, so is the penalty yardage.

Also changed is the verbiage, using the “making forcible” contact instead of “initiating” contact.

“We’re not going to call targeting any different this year than last year,” Anderson said. “The wording language that was changed … it’s subtle, but it’s meaningful. What we discovered last year (nationally), there were some misinterpretations, particularly in the replay process. Replay was working off the language of the rule. When you had that initiate part, replay was sometimes taking a targeting action off, when it should have stayed. All the force was to the head, all the damage was done, and that’s the intent of the rule.

“Officials, just like everybody else, sometimes hang on every word in the rulebook.”

Anderson was strong in his convictions last summer that the targeting disqualification would be good for football. He pointed out that if football didn’t change on its own, the sport would be changed from exterior forces. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

The rule seems to have worked. A new culture has been established. Players are responding. Officials are calling it well, and when they err, replay serves as a safety net. And the kinks in the rule have been ironed out. The targeting rule and penalty must be labeled a success.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

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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