College football officials struggle to strike the perfect balance between common sense and player safety.
For months, NCAA officiating leaders explained to coaches their players would be ejected if refs deemed they were trying to hit opponents above the shoulders under new targeting rules.
The officials tried to emphasize the new penalty should not be viewed as an unfair punishment. It was meant to protect the players and prevent head injuries.
However, coaches and fans are already complaining about the way officials have decided which players have violated the new rules and should serve stiff penalties.
They are human officials who are bound to make mistakes.
Heading into this week's games, there have been 14 targeting fouls called, according to the latest statistics provided by the NCAA, and three of those were overturned upon further video review. Ten of those fouls were called during the first week of the season.
On Saturday, we saw just tough it can be to make the right targeting call under pressure.
Mid-way through the second quarter of the Alabama-Texas A&M game, Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel zipped a pass in receiver Derel Walker's direction. Walker and Alabama's top defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix arrived at the ball at the same time and their helmets collided. The referee flagged Clinton-Dix for targeting despite what clearly was a fair play for the ball.
Clinton-Dix, a former Orlando Dr. Phillips High standout, stood on the sidelines in disbelief. Many viewers took to twitter to object to the official's call.
Fortunately for Clinton-Dix and Alabama, the ruling on the field was overturned following a video review and the preseason All-SEC player was allowed to return to the game. Disaster averted not only for the Crimson Tide, but for the NCAA, too.
Imagine the public outrage that would have come from Alabama losing one of its star defensive players on a call that was determined to be a fair hit? Now multiply that by 100 times if Texas A&M had won the game.
While it's always a challenge for officials to implement complicated rules, Rogers Redding, the national coordinator for college football officials, said the new rule has done its job.
"We always want rule changes like this around player safety to impact players," Redding said in a statement to the Orlando Sentinel Friday. "Watching some of the game and video, I can see situations where you can clearly see a player changed his behavior. The smaller number of targeting fouls from Week 2 compared to Week 1 is certainly an encouraging result."
Clinton-Dix went on to finish the game with six tackles, but he was still rattled by the close call after the game.
"I was getting ready to let my team down," Clinton-Dix told AL.com. "How would you feel?"
It was obvious before the season started that from official to official and even from conference to conference, the ruling was interpreted in different ways.
ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads riled up coaches in the SEC when he said that he would have penalized South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney for his now infamous hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith during last season's Outback Bowl.
It was a play SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw didn't deem as rule violation.
Don't get me wrong, officials should be concerned about player safety.
However, officials need to come together and agree what constitutes an actual targeting foul and instead of leaving it open to wildly varying interpretations on game day.