Texas A&M owns the first questionable enforcement of the new NCAA rule that ejects and suspends players for targeting opponents above the shoulders. We did it y'all! In today's 52-31 win against Rice, Deshazor Everett - who missed the first half after serving a 1/2 game suspension for some trouble early in the year - was ejected for tackling Klein Kubiak under the new targeting rule. Take a look at the hit below and decide for yourself, because it looks an awful lot like a hit on the shoulder pad to me:
Here is a different angle on it (credit The Big Lead):
Even Klein Kubiak said on twitter that it was nothing more than a good football play (very classy):
The NCAA started enforcing the new rule during the last off-season, and it is similar to the penalty given to players for fighting, the same penalty that Daeshon Hall will be serving for his altercation earlier in the game. The new rule suspends players in addition to a 15-yard penalty, and the player will always serve at least a full 1/2 game suspension.
I won't get in to the fact that ESPN blamed Johnny Manziel for setting the example that led to these penalties, because I don't have enough middle finger gifs, so let's stick to the reviewing the rules:
The new rule in football means that discipline for those players flagged for violations will mirror the penalty for fighting. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.
I reviewed the NCAA rule book for the definition of targeting, which can be found in rules 9-1-3 and 9-1-4:
Rule 9-1-3: Targeting and initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.
Rule 9-1-4: Targeting and initiating contact to head or neck area of a defenseless player. No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul.
Looking further in the rules, it would appear that there is no appeals process. In the rule book, the Coach is allowed to challenge the call on the field, but the hit is supposed to be automatically reviewed no matter what. According to ESPN SEC reporter Sam Khan Jr., Coach Sumlin said in the presser today that he did challenge the targeting call, and he lost. Sam also asked Coach Sumlin if he could appeal, and Coach Sumlin said he was unsure. Here is the full text of the rules:
ARTICLE 1. When a player is disqualified from the game due to a flagrant personal foul, that team's conference shall automatically initiate a video review for possible additional sanctions before the next scheduled game.
Initiating Contact/Targeting an Opponent
ARTICLE 2. When there is a foul called for initiating contact/targeting an opponent (Rules 9-1-3 and 9-1-4) that does not result in a player dis-qualification, there shall automatically be a video review by the conference for possible additional sanctions before the next scheduled game.
Foul Not Called
ARTICLE 3. If subsequent review of a game by a conference reveals plays involving flagrant personal fouls that game officials did not call, the conference may impose sanctions prior to the next scheduled game.
This rule is very important. The game does need to be changed to protect players more, because no player should lose the ability to play, or lose years on their life, for the pursuit of a college degree through college athletics. I understand that this is football, and hard hits happen, but anything you can do to take this out of the game without unnecessarily affecting the outcome is a good thing. The problem is, if this hit was reviewed by the refs and they still upheld it then there is a fundamental problem in the process. This type of penalty will affect the outcome when a big time play maker is removed from competition. Sometimes you need to be lenient and let players play.
The other issue is that there does not appear to be an appeals process in place for these type of in-game ejections where a video review was consulted for a second opinion. In a 2010 game between Georgia and Auburn, an on-field fight occured that resulted in the ejection of Auburn players Michael Groggins and Mike Blanc. By rule, these players left the game and would miss one-half of the upcoming Iron Bowl game. Then coach Mike Chizik appealed the penalty with the SEC conference, but was quickly rejected citing the fact that there is no rule regarding appeals.
The lack of an appeals process is incredibly disturbing. I understand that referees make tough decisions quickly, and are open to mistakes. They are also taught in the offseason how to enforce a rule, and tend to err on the side of player safety. That's a good thing, but in this case the additional 1/2 game suspension should be reviewed by the conference and issued based on severity. Currently the referee and replay crews become the judge, jury and executioners for this type of penalty.
Updated: A commentator below offered a great observation. If a player is ejected in the first half, and is suspended through the 2nd half of the game, he would not have an opportunity to appeal like a player who was ejected in the second half would. That clearly explains why there is no appeal process. I still believe suspensions going into the next game are harsh. The ejection and suspension should only be in the current game unless the hit could have been easily prevented, and was overly harsh. This would be harder to regulate, but would allow for an appeals process. I can't see how a next game penalty is good for the game going forward as many teams will lose starters for events that were unavoidable in the course of making a football play.
For a reference, this hit would have been called an ejection last year, and I am sure there would have been quite an uproar: