By Leo Haggerty


Yes, my loyal readers, it’s time for me to get back up on my soapbox and pontificate to you as well as to the NCAA.  College football needs to change the rules for targeting or, if they’re not up for that, adjusting the penalty for the infraction.

Let’s deal with changing the rules first, shall we?  The way the rule is written now the onus is entirely on the defensive player.  If the offensive player, even at the last minute, ducks or moves or gyrates it up to the defensive player to adjust so they do not end up targeting the offensive player.

Obviously, the individuals who came up with this rule never played a down of football on the defensive side of the ball in their lives. Let me give you an example of how this occurs and why it is impossible to avoid some of the hits that lead to targeting calls and ejections.

A receiver is going over the middle and the safety, seeing the ball in the air, comes up to make a clean shoulder tackle around the midsection but there’s a problem.  The quarterback, who was under intense pressure, had to let the ball go early and the pass is a little bit too far ahead of his intended target.

Because of that, the receiver has to dive for the pigskin at the last minute.  That turns a very good and legal tackle into a targeting penalty hit “on a defenseless receiver” and a quick trip to the showers for the perpetrator.

Here’s what bother me about this.  Remember, I’m a former college cornerback so I speak from experience.  What made the receiver defenseless?  A terrible pass from the quarterback that “laid him out to dry” as we say in the world of football.

The defender didn’t cause the receiver to be put in a vulnerable position.  The incompetence of his own teammate put him in jeopardy but the defender is the one penalized.  He’s expected to adjust his path in a nanosecond and, let me tell you, that ain’t happening.

How about another example.  Right before contact, a ball carrier lowers his head and makes helmet-to-helmet contact.  My question is who initiated the contact?  It’s definitely the offense but they never get penalized or ejected.  Why, you ask?  Frankly, I have no answer other than the referees have been instructed to call everything n the defender.

Now, I get it.  It had got to a point in college football where there was a need to curb the contact especially above the shoulders.  As evidence, I use the photo below from the 2013 Sugar Bowl where Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater was the victim of a helmet-to-helmet hit by Florida LB John Bostic.

Bostic was flagged for roughing the passer.  Was it a dirty hit?  In my opinion it wasn’t and here’s why.

I have been involved in some form of football, as a player or coach or scout, for the last 55 years.  I can assure you that I NEVER hear a coach, and that includes me, EVER tell a player, and I’m in that group as well, to “target your helmet to hit his helmet” as a weapon.

Does it happen? Yes but it part of football.  There are times that the defensive player is all set to make a tackle and the offensive player moves and the area he was planning to make contact with becomes the head and neck area.

Here’s the problem as I see it.  I don’t think the targeting rule is being applied to all collegiate teams the same.  When’s the last time you saw or heard of an Alabama player being ejected for targeting?  I don’t believe it’s because the Crimson Tide defenders do a better job of tackling than other collegiate programs.  I submit to you that officials do not want to incur the wrath of HC Nick Sabin as well as the possible ramifications that go with calling that infraction on Alabama.

I’ve always been told that if you don’t have a solution to a problem you shouldn’t bring it up.  Well, I do and here it is.

If targeting is called, and confirmed after a review, make it a 20-yard penalty and an automatic first down. Yeah, you read that right and my reasoning for instituting the largest yardage penalty in college is that there would be no ejection associated with it.

Now, the price of poker changes if that same player has another targeting or unsportsmanlike penalty in that same game.  That player is then ejected for the rest of that contest as well as the following game if the total time of the initial ejection did not come up to four quarters.

Now, the punishment fits the crime so to speak.  If it happens once, a 20-yard penalty is stiff. If it happens again, the four quarters penalty is severe and should be.

I’m even on board with an additional rule that states if an individuals accumulates three targeting penalties in a season, they must sit out the first two quarters the next contest.  Three strikes and your out, right and I’ll even take it a step farther.  If you are a repeat offender and get five in a season, you are banned from the next game completely.  That should nip this right in the bud, correct?

I believe that makes it fair for everyone.  Do you agree?  Send me your opinion so I can gauge the feelings of my readers and let everyone know what your feeling is on this topic

Looking forward to reading your responses.  Remember, if you can’t be good, be careful and if you cannot be careful, be good!