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Carolina’s Spurrier A-OK With New Targeting Rule

gfx - they said itThe growing uproar over college football’s new targeting rule has yet to gain the support of one of the sport’s most vocal coaches.  South Carolina head man Steve Spurrier is in favor of much-discussed penalty and — impressively — he had no complaints about his own player being ejected from last Saturday’s game in Knoxville:


“I think it’s a rule we have to have.  Sometimes the referees miss it a little bit, but when there’s a helmet-to-helmet hit and the tackler could avoid it, the 15-yard penalty and an ejection is something to think about.  We had one last week at Tennessee and I told our safety, JJ Marcus, ‘JJ, you can’t tackle like that anymore.  I know you’re used to that.’…

You’re getting a few more knees maybe getting knocked out in some places because of this.  Hopefully players will tackle around the chest area.  That’s the safest for all concerned and keep their heads out of it.”


SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw says the strengthening of the penalty to include player ejections has helped cut down on the number of flags thrown for targeting.  “We’ve actually seen players’ reactions change on these type hits.  Last year, a lot of times we’d have a big hit and the player would be chest-bumping and high-fiving his teammates.  Now, it’s almost, ‘Uh oh,’ hands on the helmet or whatever.  So I think players are getting it.  We still have a long way to go.”

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SEC To Ask NCAA Rules Committee To Revisit Targeting Rule

college-football-officials-talkingThat new targeting rule that has perplexed and provoked college football fans, coaches and administrators this season?  Yeah.  The SEC is going to ask the NCAA to look into it.

As you know by now, there were a pair of questionable targeting calls in last Saturday’s Georgia/Vanderbilt game.  Georgia officials spoke to SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw.  And Steve Shaw said yesterday that Mike Slive’s league will ask the NCAA — after the season – to take another look at the rule and its implementation:


“Even our commissioner has serious reservations about the penalty philosophy around targeting fouls when they’re overturned.  He and I have talked.  He’s challenged me, and together we’re going to work with the rules committee to revisit the penalty if a disqualification is overturned for targeting.”


According to The Athens Banner-Herald, six of the 14 targeting penalties handed down in the SEC this year have had the player ejection overturned.  Still, those teams lost 15 yards in penalty yardage even though a booth official didn’t think the player in question actually targeted a foe.  (Targeted, of course, implies intent, but the rule can be interpreted a half-dozen different ways… which is part of the problem.)

As we told you earlier this week, if the NCAA does decide to allow a booth official to overrule a field official’s opinion with his own, it will be a major change in NCAA policy.  So says Shaw as well:


“Do we want replay to kind of cross over that line to say, OK, we’re going to overturn the disqualification but we still think it was roughing the passer?  That would be a huge leap within our replay…

We can’t guess.  We can’t think it might have been.  We’ve got to see it, know it’s a foul before we put the marker on the ground, but these things happen in a split second and so when in question, the book says put the marker on the ground.”


And if you begin to overturn those with replay, one of two things will happen.  Referees will feel protected and start throwing more targeting flags knowing that the eye in the sky can reverse them.  Or officials will get a bit more gunshy, not wanting to have call after call corrected by a booth official.

Reversing a judgement call is not the best answer because it’s really just trading one man’s opinion for another’s.  It won’t be long until someone suggests interference and holding calls be reviewed.  If you ever get to that point, get ready for a 5-hour football game.

When it comes to the targeting rule, it’s proven to be just as vague, just as open to interpretation, and therefore just as controversial as most suspected when it was introduced this summer.

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Refs From Georgia / Vandy Game Could Face Discipline

Those who watched Saturday’s Georgia/Vanderbilt game likely walked away scratching their heads over the NCAA’s new targeting rule.  Twice the officials on hand seemed to be off-base with regards to the spirit of the rule.

At the very least.

Example One: Bulldog linebacker Ramik Wilson made a clean shoulder-to-chest hit on Vandy receiver Jonathan Krause yet was flagged for 15 yards and ejected for targeting.  The booth official “un-ejected” Wilson upon replay review, but 15 yards were still marched off against the Dawgs:


Ramik Wilson lays Big Hit on Vanderbilt Receiver


Example Two: Georgia defensive end Ray Drew was flagged for targeting and ejected for what appears to be an accidental helmet bump of VU quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels’ facemask:


Georgia's Ray Drew Ejected On Worst Targeting Call Ever


Ask a dozen refs if “intent” has anything to do with the NCAA’s new targeting rule and you’ll get a dozen answers.  The fact of the matter seems pretty simple from this front… if the rule is to be called “targeting,” intent has to be present.  You don’t accidentally “target” someone.

But then again, we said all summer that this rule would be a no-win scenario for officials, coaches and players, none of whom seem to view the rule in the same way.  And you can toss in the booth officials as well, as they’ve overturned too many ejections to count.

Quite naturally, Georgia’s Mark Richt and AD Greg McGarity have spoken with SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw and “other league administrators” about the two targeting calls that went against them in Saturday’s 31-27 loss.  McGarity told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chip Towers (one of the SEC’s best reporters, by the way) that UGA follows “protocol” and “conversations that the AD or coach have with the league office are confidential and always verbal.”

Towers points out that SEC officials have their work reviewed on a regular basis.  If the SEC and Shaw come to believe the officials in Nashville last weekend erred, those men could face disciplinary action.  They could be suspended.  They could be let go at the end of the season.  Or they could be passed over when it comes to bowl assignments.

Unfortunately, most officials would probably tell you that they didn’t want the targeting rule changed in the first place.  It’s just another bang-bang judgement call for refs to make, only this one has greater consequences thanks to the ejection portion of the rule.

The idea behind the rule — no head-hunting, player safety — is a sound one.  The wording of the rule is lacking.  The execution has been worse.

We suggest now — as we did last summer — that the NCAA adopt two separate rules to cover this helmet-to-helmet issue.

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Kentucky’s Stoops: SEC Officials Admit Mistake In Carolina Game

homer-doh-squaregreenWith 2:15 to play in Saturday night’s Kentucky/South Carolina game, the Wildcats were flagged for an illegal substitution coming out of a timeout.  Trailing 35-28, UK was attempting to stop Carolina and get the ball back for one last drive.  The penalty gave the Gamecocks a 1st-and-5 that they eventually converted to clinch the game.

One problem.

Kentucky didn’t have 12 men on the field and didn’t illegally substitute anyone.  And the SEC has admitted as much to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops:


“Just got off the phone with (SEC coordinator of officials) Steve Shaw and they made a mistake.  They were wrong…

I couldn’t understand, I didn’t understand the call.  I thought it was on them.  The guy on our sideline thought it was on them.  I said, ‘We didn’t substitute anybody.’  We didn’t take anybody out after that.  So, I don’t understand.  They said there was 12 guys.  I said, ‘Well, we played with the same guys that were out there, so evidently we played the last three plays, four plays with 12.’”


Stoops added: “Steve does an outstanding job.  We have great officials in this league, very high integrity, and I have a lot of confidence in Steve Shaw.”

Credit UK’s first-year head coach for handling this matter perfectly.  There were 122 plays run on Saturday and Kentucky could have improved on any one of them, which might have made a difference in the game’s outcome.

Readers of this site know that we tend to believe teams have to be better than the officials.  Bad calls will be made in every single game because the guys in the black-and-white shirts are human.  Don’t want a blown call to cost your team, then pull for your team to score more touchdowns.

The SEC works hard to hire, train and grade the best officials in college football.  Due to the fact that no one’s team ever deserves to be flagged for anything, those refs are hated by 90% of SEC fans.  Having lived in ACC and Big Ten country, I can tell you that the officials in those conferences are despised as well.  Everyone has “the worst officials in the country.”  Or so they’d tell you.

But at the end of the day, teams have 100+ chances per game to take matters out of the officials’ hands.  Unfortunately for UK, they didn’t get the right call on Saturday.  Whether they would have stopped Carolina on 1st-and-10 rather than 1st-and-5 is anyone’s guess.  But credit Stoops for not whining and not fueling the fires already lit by conspiracy theories.

There’s not a team in the league that won’t be a victim and a beneficiary of a blown call at some point this season.  It happens.

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WSU’s Leach Points Out The Major Flaw In New Penalty For Targeting

gfx - they said itA week ago today, I wrote that the new ejection portion of the college football’s targeting rule “will be the most controversial rule change in ages.”  This came on the heels of the ACC’s head of officials stating that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would have likely been tossed from the Outback Bowl if the current rule had been in play when he made his highlight reel tackle.  You know the play.  The one we’ve all seen 1,000,000 times.

Now, in a must-read piece from USA Today, Washington State head coach Mike Leach provides a very quick, simple explanation of exactly what’s wrong with the current rule:


“Rules, in order to be effective, have to be enforceable and you’ve got to be able to see (the infraction).  If I get these guys across the room and I have them run full-speed at each other, and I ask you in a split-second to tell me which one lowered their head first, I’ll be you can’t do it.  So I think that is a huge problem.”


Yes.  Yes it is.

The Clowney hit — oh, alright, let’s go ahead and show it again — has been viewed and reviewed by officials from darn near every major conference and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus yet on whether such a tackle will be viewed as legal or illegal moving forward.


Jadeveon Clowney's Top Play: Hit vs. Michigan


For those who hope the replay booth will help to prevent controversial targeting calls and ejections during games, keep in mind that ACC top cop Doug Rhoads and SEC director of officials Steve Shaw were both looking at replays of the same tackle above, yet those two experienced officials came to completely different conclusions regarding its legality.

By the end of the upcoming season, the new targeting rule — due to the ejection penalty — will be the most talked about football rule change in a generation or more.  So be prepared to hear talkshow caller after talkshow caller complain that their guy was booted from a game while umpteen similar hits — which will be listed — delivered by an opponent went uncalled.

And judging by the cloudy nature of the rule, it’s entirely possible that those talkshow callers will be right, too.

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SEC Top Cop Shaw On New Ejection Penalty: “Most Significant Rule Change In My Tenure”

gfx - they said itLast week it was widely reported that Big Ten officials had been given instructions regarding the NCAA’s new ejection-for-a-helmet-to-helmet-hit rule: When in doubt, kick ‘em out.

Now the fact of the matter is that there will be a review via replay to make sure that the officials on the field saw what they thought they saw.  So if a kid drives helmet-to-shoulder on tape, the ejection order can be rescinded.  Still, this attempt to curtail head injuries in college football is going to be very, very controversial.

Coaches will hate the rule when it goes against one of their players.  Fans will abhor the rule, period.  But it’s coming this fall anyway.  And current SEC head of officials Steve Shaw says the new rule is “probably the most significant rule change in my tenure.”

Speaking this morning at SEC Media Days, Shaw said:


“Instant replay has continued to evolve over time, but instant replay is going to play a big part in this.  We have to right 100% of the time.”


Newsflash: Nothing will be right 100% of the time.  Shaw said that coaches and players need to be aware of and prepared for the rule to enforced.  “Coaches have to teach head-up tackling.  Players have to execute what they’re being taught and if a player doesn’t execute it properly, the official has to have the courage to put the marker on the ground.”

The irony is that for all the grief officials will catch over this rule — and there will a whole lot — most referees would tell you that they do not want any more judgement calls added to a game that’s already being played at a faster pace than ever before.

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SEC Football Officials Will Continue To Tinker With Wireless Communication

headphonesIn 2012 the SEC experimented with a wireless communication system for its officials.  One goal was to allow officials to make calls quicker, without having to huddle for a discussion.  Another was to provide quicker access and information to a replay official in the pressbox.

Last season, two SEC crews used the system.  The league will continue to use the headsets in 2013 and coordinator of officials, Steve Shaw, says someday the SEC office wants to outfit all its crews with the wireless system.  The NCAA recently decided to allow other leagues to use wireless communications as well.  (The SEC had to ask for a waiver in order to conduct its experiment last season.)

Obviously, Shaw and company were pleased with the system:


“I think more conferences will go to it.  One area that it really helped — and it’s going to be an area we feel more and more pressure in — is uptempo offenses and substitutions.  This helps you manage the game because the umpire and ref can communicate.”


According to Shaw, use of the system cut game times by about three to four minutes.

Shaw also said that the SEC will experiment with adding an eighth on-field official during some spring games this year.

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No Suspension For Bama’s Dial Over SEC Title Game Hit On UGA’s Murray

Get out your tin foil hats, everybody, the conspiracy theories are gonna start flying now.

The SEC officially announced today what we suspected it would announce — that Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial will not be suspended for his wicked takedown of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray after the Bulldog tossed an interception in the SEC Championship Game:


“The Southeastern Conference has completed its review of video from the 2012 SEC Football Championship Game.  Several plays involving both teams were reviewed.  After review, all subsequent action will be handled internally by the two institutions and the conference office is satisfied with their actions.”


Many non-Alabama fans will claim that the SEC is just protecting the Crimson Tide, but as we noted immediately after the SEC title game, we wondered if the league would really hand down a suspension with the stakes being so high.  We don’t believe the conference’s actions would have been any different had Georgia, LSU or Vanderbilt been heading to the BCS Championship Game.  Leagues don’t typically handicap their own teams heading into national title games. That might not be right, but it’s hardly surprising.

SEC coordinator of officials, Steve Shaw, stated on December 3rd that the officials in the Georgia Dome missed the call on Dial and should have flagged him.  But penalizing him and suspending him are two different things.

Dial clearly went high into UGA’s quarterback.  We would have handed him a suspension for the lick.


Quinton Dial Destorys Aaron Murray! [Alabama vs Georgia]



But was Murray a defenseless player?  When suspensions have been handed down by the SEC office in the past, a defenseless player has been hit above the shoulders by a defender using his own shoulder or helmet to deliver the big blow.

The NFL — which goes to great lengths to protect quarterbacks — does consider a quarterback “after a change of possession” to be a defenseless player.  But in the SEC’s case, we’ve seen suspensions handed down time and again for shots delivered to receivers and returners who are in the act of catching the football.  In the SEC’s eyes, players catching footballs might be viewed as defenseless while a quarterback like Murray might be seen as simply being unaware of his surroundings.  “Keep your head on a swivel,” as the saying goes.

Again, we’re not saying that’s how we would judge Dial’s hit on Murray, but that might be the hair the SEC is splitting on this one (though we believe the main reason there’ll be no suspension is the fact that all 14 league schools have a vested interest in Alabama bringing another crown back to the league’s trophy case.)

On the season, Dial recorded 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing in 12 of Bama’s 13 games.

The conference’s release mentioned that multiple plays were reviewed and that’s clearly a reference to Georgia defensive back Sheldon Dawson’s eye-gouge of the Tide’s Dee Milliner in the same contest.  In both cases, the league seems to be taking a “no harm, no foul” approach.

So conspiracy theorists, have at it.  The league just threw you a hanging curve.

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Bama’s Dial “Getting A lot Of Heat” Over Hit On UGA’s Murray, But Will He Get A Suspension?

There were a number of questionable calls (that went against both teams) during Saturday’s night’s SEC Championship Game.  A tipped pass here, a roughing the passer there.  But one call is still stirring emotions on Tuesday morning… and still causing a number of fans to email a specific YouTube clip to the MrSEC inbox.

In Alabama’s 32-28 win over Georgia, Tide defensive lineman Quinton Dial delivered what was clearly a blow to the head of Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray.  But Murray wasn’t in the pocket as a passer.  He was just another guy on the field after tossing an interception.  Let’s just say Murray didn’t keep his head on a swivel:


[SLOW MOTION] Big Hit on Aaron Murray by Quinton Dial SEC Championship


As you can see, there was clearly helmet-to-helmet contact on the play and SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw admitted yesterday that a flag should have been thrown (assuming an official saw the hit).  “We missed the call,” Shaw said.

According to Dial’s teammate Robert Lester, the senior lineman has been getting “a lot of heat from outside sources.”  Lester commented that the hit was just a part of football and you can bet Mike Slive won’t be thrilled to read the comments that follow after he’s suspended several players over the course of the last two years for illegal helmet-to-helmet or above-the-shoulder hits to defenseless players:


“I feel like it’s all a part of football.  Players take shots at us, we take shots at players.  It’s all football.  It’s a physical sport.  If you can got on the field and not get hit, more power to you.  That’s what football is about, hitting somebody, especially if you play defense.”


True enough.  But hitting someone legally is a requirement of the NCAA rule book and the SEC’s commissioner has been enforcing that call in especially egregious cases.

So, will Slive suspend Dial for Alabama’s next game — the BCS Championship Game with Notre Dame?  Shaw didn’t rule it out yesterday:


“As you’ve noticed, Commissioner has been vigilant on this and he did it when warranted and didn’t when it wasn’t.  I’m not sure the upcoming opponent is ever a condition in the decision.  I think it’s more based on the facts in the play…

By rule, you can’t hit a defenseless player above the shoulders.  What the determination needs to be is was this a defenseless player and was contact initiated above the shoulders?  When we go through video review of it, that’s what we’ll have to determine.  And then… as you break it down, did he lead with the head or lead with the shoulder?  From game action, it was a personal foul regardless of how we break it down frame by frame.”


Only, it wasn’t called as a personal foul on the field.

As for whether or not the hit will result in suspension, there’s little question that contact initiated above the shoulders.  Dial also clearly led with his head and not his shoulder.

But was Murray defenseless?  When Slive has suspended players in the past, it has been for hits against receivers and punt returners who were trying to catch passes.  Murray clearly had his eyes on the interception return, but is that a question of a player being defenseless or just unaware of his surroundings?

That could be a point the league office debates while determining its action.  If Murray’s “job” on the play was to catch a football and he got popped, it’s likely Dial would be suspended.  But Murray was simply not paying attention and the league may rule that while he didn’t see the hit coming, he was not literally “defenseless.”

That’s not our view, mind you.  We at believe it was an unnecessary shot at an opposing quarterback — a protected species — and that Slive should hand Dial a one-game suspension.

The trouble is, Slive might not want to sit someone for a national title bout.  That’s a rare opportunity for a player (if you don’t play at Alabama).

Georgia AD Greg McGarity said he also missed the play during live action and that he was “stunned” when he viewed the hit on the internet.  “It is definitely a play we will submit for review, but I’m sure that’s already being done,” he said.  “I’m anxious to see what (Slive) says about it…. This is a case where it could have had serious implications on Aaron, not only in that game but in future games.”

You ca bet a lot of people in Tuscaloosa and South Bend are anxious to hear the commissioner’s ruling as well.

Dial has played in 12 of the Tide’s 13 games this season.  He’s recorded 21 total tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, and 1.5 sacks.  He also has four quarterback hurries.

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SEC Top Cop Shaw Breaks Down Rule Changes

SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw met the media today and stepped everyone through the rule changes coming to college football this season.  For the sake of knowledge, we encourage you to read his comments right here.

Each fall, we get tons of questions about rules and rule interpretations.  Mainly because no fan of any team has ever felt a call has gone for his favorite team.  That’s just sports.  Still, knowing the changes ahead of time might help fend off some Saturday rage down the road.

According to Shaw you can expect coaches’ sideline behavior to be a “point of emphasis” this year.  Also — as you know – many of the changes are being made to better protect players.

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