NCAA to Review Instant Replay, Targeting Rules in Football

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced on Thursday, February 4, 2016, that it intends to review certain rules to increase and promote football safety next season. The proposed rule changed will be analyzed by the NCAA Football Rules Committee during its upcoming meeting, scheduled for February 9-11. According to the NCAA, the committee will primarily be concerned with discussing potential rule changes to promote the improvement of health and safety in the sport of football – a wise stance to take as the wave of serious litigation over concussions and related injuries has swept the sports world, from the professional ranks down to the amateur organizations.

The committee is expected to discuss potential changes to two major concerns of the NCAA: penalizing players targeting others and the officiating crew’s ability to review such dangerous activities. The proposals follow the footsteps of 2014 alterations, where instant replay officials were granted the power to confirm or reverse an on-field official’s decision to call a targeting foul. Targeting penalties are one of the most difficult to call in all of football, as they’re entirely subjective to the discretion of the referee; what may be determined targeting from one ref might be different from the conclusions another zebra might make. And because of the slew of devastating injuries a targeted player might face, it’s important the NCAA gets it right – they need to show fans that player safety is their ultimate goal.

One idea that has been floated around to amend the current rules is allowing off-field officials the ability to stop the game and enforce a targeting foul unseen by the refs down in the action. This will require a greater amount of communication between on- and off-field penalty callers, possibly unparalleled from what we’ve seen in the game so far.

Additionally, the committee is expected to consider a permanent change to the policy requiring medical spotters in the press boxes at all football games. The NCAA flirted with the idea over the last few seasons, but failed to establish it as a fixture for any team not opting to participate in such elective safety procedures. Requiring medical spotters in attendance and giving them the power to stop the game if they witness potential injury could be an extremely powerful maneuver for the NCAA in light of the number of concussion suits it’s facing. Such a move would show the governing body progressing with the preventive steps asked for at the heart of many of the lawsuits, i.e., ending concussions and head injuries in the game.

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