Steve Shaw and the letter of the law

This will be my last post on the subject of the targeting rule, but Steve Shaw has a valid point that’s worth noting.  For all the focus on the linguistics that the SEC office did in its comment about the Drew penalty and that I’ve done in my posts about targeting, from the perspective of his guys, Shaw’s hit on the most significant wording in the rule.

Shaw said “whether I like it or not,” the rulebook states when in question, it’s a foul.

“We can’t guess,” he said. “We cant 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.”

It really does say that.

“Rule 9-1-4. No player shall target and initiate CONTACT TO THE HEAD OR NECK areas of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow OR SHOULDER. By rule, when in question, it is a foul.”  [Emphasis added.]

“Also note that a replay official must have indisputable video evidence that there was no such contact to overturn the call on the field.”

The NCAA codified “when in doubt”.  No wonder Shaw sounds frustrated.  His crews aren’t supposed to exercise judgment because the NCAA wants the flags thrown.  They just get the crap that follows from the inevitably questionable results.

If they’re really going to revisit the rule in the offseason, maybe that’s the language that needs to go.


Filed under The NCAA

53 responses to “Steve Shaw and the letter of the law

  1. Brandon

    Haha, the NCAA calls fouls based on the reasonable suspicion standard or less.

    • Brandon

      Where is the “unless it’s Clowney” language, I can only assume it’s in there somewhere based on this past weekend.

      • MDDawg

        What’s the definition of a “defenseless player”? I thought runners didn’t count.

        • Brandon

          Maybe that’s it. I still think they should toss the QB also for putting the receiver in the “defenseless” position.

  2. MDDawg

    So when in doubt, a player is guilty of targeting. Upon video review, the player is guilty of targeting until proven innocent. Nice.

  3. DugLite

    After this weekend I really don’t see me as involved in college football as I am now. With the no calls in some games and calls everywhere in others I just don’t know anymore. I will probably watch on tv but not buy season tickets or have my weekends revolve around the UGA game. I just don’t know anymore.

  4. Samuel Arthur

    He also said they need to see it and know it is a foul before they throw the flag. That clearly did not happen on the Drew push.

  5. Senator, totally agree that that language needs to be removed. That is the language that prevents all the officials from huddling, deciding it wasn’t a penalty after all, then picking up the flag. If a flag is thrown at all, even if all the other officials on the field don’t believe it was targeting, all it takes is one flag to say that there was “doubt”. Even if the umpire in our game tried to stand his ground and say “No, I had a perfect view, there was no targeting”, I’d imagine the officials have been instructed that once a flag has been thrown for targeting, under no circumstances are you to pick it up, because that automatically means there was doubt, let it go to the replay official.

    I still would want the penalty portion to be overturned as well if the replay official says there is no targeting, but I would have less of a problem with the rule if (a) the officials had the capacity to get together after the flag to decide if it really was targeting, and (b) they would actually do it, actually get together and if it was determined that no penalty occurred, just wave off the flag entirely.

    But who am I kidding?

  6. Scorpio Jones, III

    I thought we had this “when in doubt throw the flag” discussion late Saturday or early Sunday.

    • Dog in Fla

      Geez, Scorp. Stay with us. We’ve moved beyond the penalty phase to the mandatory sentencing phrase: “By rule, when in question, it is a foul.”

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Yeah, but…ah…I mean, like, ah….that’s the whole point, if you have a doubt, throw the flag, let God sort it out. We talked about all that, or at least I did, like right after the game…the one where we lost to Vandy…I will never get used to that.

        Oh, and a bit of unsolicited advice….talk after game, not before game.

        That has served me well here in Big Urnge country.

  7. AusDawg85

    I think SEC refs are going to throw the hanky more often as a bit of a protest. Other conferences, like the B12, may be choosing to be more selective. I think the top crews are aware this is a poor way to handle the “problem” and the only form of protest is to over do it or under do it so that it has to be addressed by the league offices. I’m sure if they had asked the top officiating crews how to better stop targeting, they would have come up with a better solution, though maybe not one that would have been better for Mark Emmert.

  8. Careful Brad

    “These things happen in a split second” or in Wilson’s case three seconds after the play has been whistled dead.

  9. Gravidy

    ANY rule in ANY context which is based on “zero tolerance” and/or precludes the decision makers from using their judgment is idiotic.

    Furthermore, I really have to roll my eyes at these comments about the rules committee being completely comprised of coaches, and therefore we are told the rule wouldn’t be in place if the coaches weren’t on their knees begging for it. We are supposed to believe that the NCAA didn’t drive this train, and we are to further believe that there were no negotiations with the officials regarding the 15 yard penalty being unreviewable.

    Am I the only one who goes through life asking myself if “they” really think I’m this stupid? Typically, “they” are politicians when I ask myself this, but in this case “they” are NCAA/SEC/referees.

  10. WF dawg

    What happened in Game 1 of the World Series last night should have happened after Wilson’s play. An initial (incorrect) call is made, the other umpires/officials conference together to overrule the incorrect party, and the incorrect call is reversed. “There is no flag on the play. Turnover on downs. Georgia’s ball. First down.” That’s what should have happened. And I’m still mad about it.

  11. Keese

    Following bad losses…it’s the Kubler-Ross emotional stages for us Dawg fans

  12. Go Dawgs!

    Either the language about throwing the flag when there’s even the slightest hint of doubt needs to go (even though the Ray Drew call still shouldn’t have been made… there was no reasonable thought that the hit was targeting or in any way illegal) or the 15 yard penalty has to be able to be reversed by the booth. No two ways about it. Either one or the other (or preferably both) has to go.

  13. AthensHomerDawg

    I was driving home from Atlanta yesterday when the State Patrol pulled me over on the loop. “License and insurance please.” I asked the officer why he pulled me over and he said ” I think you were speeding.” “I am going to radio the radar car you passed and ask.” A moment later he returned with my license and handed me a ticket. When I asked if I was speeding he said “No, but the Governor wants these roads safe so I have to give you a ticket anyway. ”

    IF they are going to “revisit the rules” please make some adjustment that covers refs throwing flags from across the field while standing in front of the opposing teams side lines. This after the ref standing 10 feet in front of the play with clear view signals an incomplete pass. Shouldn’t the ref standing with clear view of play and has already determined the call on the play have “jurisdictional control”. This is all getting pretty silly. “Just let ’em play ref. Let ’em play.”

  14. D.N. Nation

    The flag was thrown before Drew’s hit.

    There’s something really, really wrong with that. As in- “needs independent group to review.”

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      As in “needs grand jury investigation of possible bribery of referee to assure winning outcome of large bets by mob figures.”

  15. Irwin R Fletcher

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    Did Drew initiate contact to the head or neck area? Maybe.
    Was it with his shoulder? Yes.
    Was the QB ‘defenseless’? Yes.

    Great. So throw the flag…but wait, one last element that the Senator hit on earlier.

    Did he Target? Well, what is “Targeting”? Good thing there is a definition!

    “Targeting” means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes
    of attacking with an apparent intent 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 contact in the head or neck area
    • A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground
    • Leading with helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with contact at the head or neck area
    • Lowering the head before attacking by initiating contact with the crown of
    the helmet”

    So…just so I’m clear on this…Drew’s took aim at the QB not to get a legal sack but instead to attack him? WHA??? That’s just stupid.

    There is a penalty in the rule book when a player hits a defenseless QB after the ball has been thrown…ARTICLE 9. No defensive player shall charge into a passer or throw him to the ground when it is obvious the ball has been thrown….it’s called roughing the passer. It does not require any intent that goes ‘beyond making a legal’ tackle and is the only correct call in this case.

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      Fletch, it will only increase yo angst if you try to insert logic into what is, clearly, an illogical situation.

      It is pretty clear to me the ref thought Drew “MIGHT” be guilty of targeting, thus he is pulling the flag before any of the contact is made.

      The problem is compounded by the damn quarterback just standing there, if like Murphy is likely to do, he is on the move, there is probably no flag…or at least that seems….ah hell, logical?

      Boss, I understand you wanting to be done with this targeting thing, but I greatly fear you ain’t done yet.

    • Joe Schmoe

      This is especially relevant since the replay official said that he would not have upheld the ejection if Drew had tackled the QB to ground. What?!?! He is basically saying that Drew should have roughed the passer to avoid the targeting. Asinine.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      The other element is “initiates” contact with the head or neck. This is a two-fold rule. In order for the officials to flag for targeting they must find (1) the player “targets” the opposing defenseless player as described by Fletch above, AND (2) “initiates” contact to the head and neck area. Here Drew did not do any of the things described by Fletch above that a rational person would consider to be “targeting” nor did he “initiate” contact to the head or neck as his first contact was to the QB’s shoulder with Drew’s forearm/shoulder. There was some contact between Drew’s facemask and the side to the QB’s facemask and possibly the side of his helmet, but such contact was merely ancillary, not the main point of contact. Thus, Drew did not “initiate” contact to the head or neck of Vandy’s QB. If a foul at all, it is just roughing the passer. The refs aren’t following the text of this rule and the conference apparently doesn’t understand it either based on what is coming out of the SEC. Get a lawyer to explain what it says to you guys!!!

  16. Joe Schmoe

    For me. the relevant point to his comments is the question of when in doubt. In both of these cases, but especially the Wilson play since there was no contact to the head and it was a textbook tackle, there never should have been any question that it was targeting. Basically it was a big hit over the middle so the ref who was nowhere near the play threw the flag. Because of the way the rule is written, defenders are essentially unable to play defense over the middle as they will be charged a 15 yard penalty even if the ejection is overturned.

    • Irwin R Fletcher

      The problem is that the officials are interpreting ‘when in doubt’ as ‘if you don’t remember the rule, throw the flag if it might fit into the rule’…

  17. Silver britches

    Crap legal system and lawyers to blame for this fiasco

  18. fatman48

    The NCAA says call it a “FOUL” throw the flag, eject the player, walk off the fifteen yard penality. Then let MIAMI off the hook… What a bunch of Assholes.

  19. Spike

    Nick Fairly is a happy guy this rule wasn’t around in his day.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      What makes you think SEC refs would call this on Fairly? There already was “roughing the passer” on the books and they never called that on him.

  20. WarD Eagle

    AU lost a player in the first game on a hit that was nothing Ultimately there was W/L impact to AU, but he was ejected and made ineligible for the first half of the next game – an SEC game.

    The frustrating part was that the hit was inconsequential, some hands to the chest (maybe the helmet?) of the opposing QB.

    However, I like what the rule appears to be accomplishing. That is, taking away shots to the shoulders and head.

    If it does change the game where more players make lower tackles, using what most of us think of as ‘textbook’ form – head up, shoulders low, aiming from hips to chest, then I believe we will all be happy in the long run.

    What we’ve learned about blows to the head in the past ten years is very important to the long term health of athletes and it is important that we remember that – even when it impacts our teams in the short term.

    I’ve long said we need to take the helmets off because they’re being used as a weapon. That was always a solution that had a huge issue, that the player being hit was unprotected from a shot to the head by the defender’s shoulder pads. I believe the rule that exists today is a much better plan.

    Is it frustrating when the ejection is overturned, but the penalty stands? Yes. However, that seems to fit the longer term goal of teaching these players that targeting the head is off limits – whether you hit it or not. In a similar fashion, if I throw a punch but do not actually hit the opposing player, I will be ejected; and I should because the goal is to minimize fighting.

    I’ve sworn to my wife that I will never encourage my son to follow in my footsteps on the football field primarily because of the brain damage issues associated with football. If this rule is successful, I might be willing to reconsider.

    (Sorry if this is a bit rambling, it’s purely extemporaneous.)

    • I guess I can agree with you in theory, but if it were Auburn that had been screwed by the corrupt SEC officials, would you be saying that the ends justify the means?
      The Ramik Wilson hit was clean, pure and simple. It was textbook tackling technique taught on every practice field in America as you described above, but a replay or the official on top of the play can’t overrule a judgment made by an official more that 20 yards away and in front of the opposing team’s bench.
      The rule is a joke and needs to be seriously looked at by the NCAA rules committee.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      I saw that hit by the Auburn player on the QB and I thought it was a bogus call. As to whether I would encourage my son to play football now, I probably wouldn’t because nowadays he would get flagged for a legitimate hit and blamed for the team’s loss when he not only didn’t do anything wrong–he made a great play!

  21. Macallanlover

    The response by Shaw, and increased attention this week throughout the national media, are a direct result of the two obvious error examples in the UGA/Vandy game. Both the missed interpretation on Drew’s play by the officials on the field and in the booth, and the dramatic effect of the enforcement of a non-penalty on Wilson visually demonstrated why the rule has to be amended in the off season. I have little doubt both will be used as the examples when this rule is discussed by the rules committee. Unfortunately, this will not change the outcome of the Vandy game because they were the difference in who won that football game,but UGA will have “taken one for the game” when all is analyzed.

    I know there was much universal opposition to this rule interpretation prior to the season that had nothing to do with the Dawgs, but the autopsy that changes the way the rule is implemented going forward will be of those two plays when put under the microscope. There will be slides of other as well but ours will have served as the catalyst for change. Whomever is responsible for the “call first and sort it out later” provision of this rule should be banned from the game forever.

  22. Trbodawg

    My problem/concern with the “When in doubt” rule is; How do you not throw a flag on every single play? Cause, If I’m an official, I probably didn’t see the entire tackle, so I have doubt as to what happened, so if I have doubt, I should throw a flag? WTH…

    • The Lone Stranger

      “… So which’ll it be young feller? If’n I freeze I can’t very well drop. And if’n I drop I’ll be in motion.” [the immortal wisdom of Raising Arizona!]

  23. Trbodawg

    Okay, and since this is the good Senator’s last post on the matter, I’m gonna vent one last time. Why do we even need a new rule/penalty? A player can already be ejected for “unsportsmanlike conduct” so call it. Is not “spearing” already a penalty? “Roughing the passer” the same thing. We don’t need new rules, we need enforcement of the rules already in place. There. Now at least I feel better (not about the loss inflicted upon us, but because I got to yell at the Interwebs)

    • The Lone Stranger

      Sorry Trbodawg, we live in Murrica where rules and laws grow nearly unchecked until all the lawyers and insurance companies are satiated. He’ll, just glance at the Senate for thousand-page statutes that the CONGRESSMEN never even scan but nonetheless pass on to all of us. It stinks to high heaven, and yet some segment of society votes these SOBs in there.