As it stands, there are two primary motivations behind the targeting protocol: player safety (or, perhaps more accurately, fear of losing multiple concussion lawsuits) and ass-covering officiating crews.
“It was my understanding based upon the information that was passed upon us at the board meeting that [the review] was a little bit of a protection for the officials,” Berry said…
Why do the officials need protection? Because the NCAA wanted a hair-trigger response on the field and knew that officials would be reluctant to react in that way without some structural support. That’s how you get to a mindset of “when in doubt, throw the flag” for a penalty that can lead to the ejection of a player or a 15-yard mark-off even if no infraction occurred. There’s nothing else in college football that’s approached in a similar manner.
And for all those who believe that some of the calls we saw this weekend will have to lead to a re-evaluation of enforcement of the targeting rules, how do you address this?
Added Richt: “I’m sure a lot of people would say if you’re reviewing it, why don’t you go ahead and change the penalty if it was called incorrectly? Maybe you can just have it in that wrong case. We’re talking about a safety rule. That might make sense. I can understand why they didn’t want to do it because they didn’t want to open up a Pandora’s Box on that because if you review that then why don’t you review pass interference, why don’t you review all kind of stuff like that? It would just take too much time. Since you are reviewing it anyway, it might be one that they make an exception for in the future.”
The SEC hasn’t commented about the targeting calls on Georgia beyond putting out a release during the game detailing rule 9-1-4, with certain words capitalized.
Shaw told The Birmingham News earlier this month: “Maybe we look at making the targeting foul a special case where we allow replay to come into that judgment and say if only targeting is involved, and it’s not deemed targeting, we could take away that 15-yard penalty. But that crosses into a very slippery slope of officiating from the booth. A lot of purists have never wanted us to go over that line.”
Slippery slopes and Pandora’s Boxes. Those don’t make for simple solutions. The NCAA wants those calls to be made as proof it’s serious about concussion issues. Officials are going to be more reluctant to judge those plays in the aggressive manner the NCAA wants if they feel they’re going to be broadly second-guessed by the replay official (who’s under the same pressure as the guys on the field, by the way, except that he doesn’t have the in-the-moment excuse in the booth).
My bet is that we’re going to see some version of Todd Berry’s two-penalty suggestion…
Berry said even if a targeting penalty is overturned, he could still see the reasoning for yards being marked off because there still could be two fouls on the same play — for instance a late hit along with targeting.
“There could be two fouls within the same play and we need to view it along those lines,” he said. “That’s my opinion. … I need to actually hear some more information in terms of clarifying my own mind about why they did what they did because obviously from a common sense standpoint, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
… offered as a solution that in reality won’t solve the problem, because then the officials will simply be told “when in doubt, call two penalties”.
If you’re looking for a fair solution, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. Fairness isn’t the NCAA’s strong suit.
UPDATE: More from Steve Shaw.
“Our game is absolutely under attack, there’s no question about that,” Shaw said. “Even the president of the United States said, ‘If I had a son, I’m not sure I’d let him play football.’ We may pass that off, but those are impactful words. There’re a lot of people out there with lawsuits. The NFL has just settled a lawsuit, but it’s not over. That’s just the first stage.”
At least he’s honest about it.