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College football’s controversial targeting rule won’t change in 2017

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An NCAA committee considered making some tweaks.

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Notre Dame Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

College football’s targeting rule won’t change in the 2017 season. The NCAA’s Football Rules Committee decided on Friday to leave the rule alone, after a report said it was considering reforms to make the rule a bit more lenient on defenders.

From an NCAA release:

One area of health and safety discussion the committee decided to leave unchanged involved the targeting rule. There was considerable discussion regarding possible adjustments to the rule, but the committee decided to leave it unchanged for the 2017 season.

“The change we have witnessed in player behavior has been significantly positive,” Nielson said. “The adjustment made last year to allow the replay official to examine all aspects of the targeting rule was a positive change.”

The NCAA gave replay officials the authority to uphold or overturn a targeting call before last season.

Currently, a targeting foul means a 15-yard penalty and an automatic ejection from the game, if it’s upheld as a penalty after video review. If a targeting foul is overturned, there’s no penalty. CBS Sports’ Jon Solomon reported the committee was considering an option to make an ejection non-automatic. That won’t happen, at least for now.

On the touchiest of targeting penalties, it can seem overly punitive to mandatorily kick the player out of the game even if we don’t definitively have an answer to the targeting question.

To review, targeting involves all this fun stuff beyond simply just helmet-to-helmet hits and making contact with the head or neck area with a part of the defender’s body:

Note 1: "Targeting" means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball. Some indicators of targeting include but are not limited to:

Launch — a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area

A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground

Leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area

Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet

When in question, refs are instructed to err on the side of throwing the flag and kicking the player out of the game. That’ll still be the case, at least next season.

The same committee that didn’t move to change the targeting rule did recommend three changes, which could go into effect next season. The most significant is an expansion of the leaping rule, which could make it harder to block field goals.