IRVING, Texas — Walt Anderson kept showing video examples of potential targeting fouls. Play after play were on the screen for Big 12 officials to digest last weekend at their annual clinic.
Anderson, director of Big 12 officiating, would show the play in slow-motion, rewind it, show it again. He would talk through the plays, what the officials were seeing, where the play was headed, where the contact could have been made, should have been made, was made.
And play after play, most of the hits shown were deemed legal. And if not on the field, in the replay booth.
“We’ve got far more examples of legal contact than targeting, because that’s the reality,” Anderson said. “We feel very comfortable where we ended the season last year with targeting.”
Either Big 12 football was remarkably clean, or the league’s defenders were scared straight. Fear gripped coaches, players, fans and media last year when the NCAA ruled that players penalized for targeting would be disqualified for that half and the next half, be it that game or the next.
That fear was unfounded in the Big 12. Anderson said Big 12 crews called just eight targeting penalties last season, and four of those were wiped out by replay review. That’s less than one per team, for the season. Less than one per week, for the conference.
In this case, deterrence worked.
More from Tramel
Big 12 Officiating: Eight-man crews are here to stay
Test your football knowledge with the Big 12 officiating test
From little league to the Big 12, Jerod Phillips has come a long way in officiating
“It’s definitely something you think about it, as opposed to the years before,” said Kass Everett, who played defensive back at OU the previous two years. “It definitely was in the back of our mind; every time we felt like we had a clean shot, we had to make sure we were not hurting ourselves.”
Or maybe players weren’t head-hunting nearly as much as we were led to believe.
“Very often we get unfairly labeled with being much more violent than it is,” Anderson said of the sport. And this is not a guy with his head in the sand. He’s an NFL referee on Sundays, then works during the week to insure that Big 12 football is officiated as well as it possibly can be.
“There’s a lot of contact to the helmet during the course of play, most of which is legal,” Anderson said.
Remember the definition of targeting: making forcible contact against an opponent with the crown of the helmet or to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder.
Continue reading this story on the...