Changes to targeting foul, other rule changes for the 2014 football season

Sean Landry

HOOVER – SEC Coordinator of officials Steve Shaw appeared before assembled media on day three of SEC Media Days to clarify a number of rule changes and points of emphasis for the upcoming season.

Shaw explained two major rule changes for the 2014 season, both tied to player safety. The NCAA makes changes to their rulebook in a two-year cycle, meaning significant changes can only happen every second year, with the exception of rules for player safety. 2014 is an “off year,” meaning the only revisions this year must be related to player safety.

Notably, Shaw introduced a revision to the infamous targeting rule. Previously, a player flagged for targeting a player with his helmet was immediately ejected and a 15-yard penalty was assessed. Each targeting call was reviewed on instant replay and ejections could be overturned if video evidence showed the player did not target his opponent with his helmet. The 15-yard penalty for the personal foul, however, was still assessed.

In 2014, after much controversy, the 15-yard penalty can also be overturned, Shaw said.

“Last year, the 15-yard penalty stood no matter what. If the targeting foul was overturned, the player would get to go back in the game,” Shaw said. “Now, if it’s targeting only, not only does the player go back in the game, but we will not initiate a 15-yard penalty.”

Shaw noted that the 15-yard penalty would only be overturned if the original call was “targeting,” with no other component. Another personal foul, such as “roughing the passer with targeting,” would still carry a 15-yard penalty regardless of review.

Shaw said he is aware of the controversy surrounding the targeting rule but thinks it’s a necessary modification to the game.

“I think the rule has done exactly what we wanted it to do,” Shaw said. “We have to stay with it.”

The second change is the introduction of a “strike zone” for tackling quarterbacks. A new rule states that “a defender rushing unabated… cannot hit him at the knee or below,” Shaw said.

“Now you hit them above the knee and below the neck,” Shaw said. “That’s really the strike zone for defenders.”

2014 will also see expanded instant replay in college football.

“We’re continuing to mature replay,” Shaw said. “People think it’s integral to the game but we’ve been playing college football 140 years and we’ve had a short window with replay. We’re adding a few things.” Under the new rules, the location of a passer during a play that results in intentional grounding is reviewable, particularly in situations when that call results in a safety – when the passer is in the end zone.

Also, all cases of catch or recovery of a loose ball are reviewable, including backwards passes that go out-of-bounds.

The SEC will also be home to what Shaw called an officiating “experiment:” the introduction of an eighth official to officiating crews.

“In the SEC, we are selecting one of our crews, they’re going to work with the eighth official all year,” Shaw said. “The intent of an eighth official is not to go faster, not to go slower, but to help our guys officiate the game better.”

Shaw said the officials have many hours of preparation ahead of them to get physically and mentally prepared for the season, but as for week one?

“We can’t wait to get started,” Shaw said. “The season will be here before you know it.”