Does College Football Have A Targeting Problem?

Does College Football Have A Targeting Problem?

Lane Kiffin needed help after seeing two of his Ole Miss players ejected for targeting plays in the first half of their game against Louisville. The Rebels’ head coach was asking for help from the officiating crew on how to properly tackle the Cardinals’ players. However, one former NFL official called out Kiffin, called his comments “asinine” and reminded the coach it was his job to teach players how to play, and the job of officials to call the game. In short, the Ole Miss/Louisville game highlighted the targeting problem that college football is dealing with. 

Lane Kiffin aint happy with the targeting calls pic.twitter.com/EZvxWNynZy

— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) September 7, 2021

Terry McAulay is a former NFL official and currently works for NBC as their rules’ expert. He was watching the Ole Miss/Louisville game Monday night and heard Lane Kiffin declare “We just need this Big Ten officiating crew to teach us how to tackle because obviously, we don’t know how,” after two of his players were cited and ejected for targeting. 

It is not the officials’ job to coach players proper technique. The rules for targeting have been in place for 9 years and most coaches know how to teach. What is a foul for targeting is not going to change. (1/4) https://t.co/ZfZJHt8XQX

— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) September 7, 2021

In response, McAulay took to Twitter and posted, “It is not the officials’ job to coach players proper technique. The targeting rules have been in place for nine years and most coaches know how to teach. What is a foul for targeting is not going to change.” 

One final note…Kiffin will need to learn quickly how to coach proper technique, because starting with the 3rd targeting DQ for a player, that player will be suspended for his next full game.

— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) September 7, 2021

McAulay went on to point out in the same Twitter thread that college football feared that coaches did not take the risk of concussions or head/neck injuries seriously enough and were not teaching proper tackling techniques.  This was one of the reasons why there was never a two-tier targeting rule put in place, and that all hits deemed to be “targeting” would result in an ejecting of the player. McAulay tried to work with college football from 2013-2018 to have an “accidental” and “intended” targeting rule system put into place; with the fears of how badly some coaches were ignoring the seriousness of the problem overriding all other concerns.

Without the concerns of unions, college football can do what the NFL can’t; take player safety to an extreme level that those in uniform and on the sidelines likely don’t want them to. While Tom Brady might feel that defenses are paying the price for offensive mistakes when they are penalized, not all “targeting” infractions are the fault of a bad throw or a blown assignment on the offensive line. The rules are simple, a helmet-to-helmet hit is not acceptable in college football, and when they occur between a ball carrier and a tackler, the price is known by everyone before they take the field, ejection.

College football does not want to face the lawsuits that the NFL did over concussions, which is why targeting rules have been in place for nearly a decade and are not going away anytime soon. Lane Kiffin can cry foul when his players are ejected all he wants, but how the rules are called on the field are not going to change for him or anyone else in college football. And as Terry McAulay pointed out, the comments made by Kiffin only reinforce the beliefs held ten years ago that coaches can’t or won’t teach proper tackling techniques, which is why the two-tiered penalty system won’t be implemented anytime soon.

In short, college football wouldn’t need a targeting rule if it was not for head coaches like Lane Kiffin, who treat the rule as a holding or pass interference penalty than the serious issue it is, and will continue to be in the sport. Sadly, for Ole Miss fans, their head coach is too stupid to understand that which is why Rebels players won’t learn from their game against Louisville. It’s also why in a few years, after making several more of his repeated mistakes, Lane Kiffin will be looking for another head coaching job again. 

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