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Coaches push for changes to targeting rules, kickoffs and eliminating Friday night games

Looking to add clarity to the sometimes ambiguous targeting rule, coaches at the annual American Football Coaches Association Convention are proposing a two-fold penalty.

The proposal submitted by a group that consists of college football coaches from every division would create a Targeting 1 and Targeting 2 penalty.

“All of our coaches are in favor of the targeting rule and they recognize the significance of it. We also recognize that there needs to be more clarification,” AFCA executive director Todd Berry said in a statement. “There is going to be subjectivity in the enforcement of this rule, but this can be very costly to the student-athlete who has limited attempts to play this game.

“For a student-athlete to be ejected from a game for something that many would question to be the correct call can be severe.”

Targeting 1 would be called if there is no malicious intent by the player. It would come with a simple 15-yard penalty.

Targeting 2 would be called if there is malicious intent by the player. The proposal would call for a more severe punishment than a one-game suspension if the player has been flagged for multiple Targeting 2 penalties during a season.

Targeting is defined as any time a player makes forcible contact against a defenseless opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. The NCAA states it’s also targeting when a player makes forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder.

Under the current rule, players are automatically disqualified for targeting. If a player is ejected in the first half, they must miss the remainder of the game. If a player is ejected in the second half, he must miss the first half of the team’s next game.

Any rule changes would next have to go through the NCAA Football Oversight Committee.

Tweaking kickoff rules

The coaches also discussed changes to the kickoff rules.

The NCAA instituted a new rule in 2018 that allows teams to call for a fair catch that would place the football on their own 25-yard line. According to AFCA, the number of kickoff returns were reduced by 25 percent.

And while coaches were in favor of the change, they would like to see it go further.

“The double-team on the kickoff has become a much more impactful play in relation to the number of injuries that occur to the individual that is getting double-teamed, or the student-athletes who are double-teaming. Because of this, the AFCA Rules Committee is asking the NCAA Rules Committee to ban any double-teams on the kickoff play. Again, all of our coaches are in favor of this move,” Berry said.

Transfer issues

The coaches discussed the transfer rules and agreed they do not support undergraduate transfers becoming immediately eligible to play. They believe that is not fair to the coaches or their teams.

“Coaches are not against transfers as a whole because if we were, we would not be in support of the graduate transfer. The coaches whole-heartedly support the graduate transfer, which allows a student-athlete, regardless if they are a starter or not, to transfer wherever they want and continue on with their education in the master’s program of their choosing,” Berry said.

No football on Friday nights

AFCA also is eager to see the elimination of playing college football games on Friday nights.

“Friday nights should be a sanctuary for our high school football programs and they should be free of college distractions,” Berry said. “… It’s not just high school football that is hurt, but it’s the band, the concessions and everyone associated with that high school program who benefits from the finances of those high school games. It seems very strange to invade the territory of the hand that is feeding college football because that is where college programs get their student-athletes from.”

Coaches liken eliminating playing games on Friday nights to the NFL agreeing not to play games on Saturdays and argue this move would help protect the scholastic model and empower high school coaches in the recruiting process.

There were 35 games on Friday nights during the 2018 season at the Football Bowl Subdivision, not counting the 15 games on Thanksgiving weekend.

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