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Big 12 officials supervisor lays down law

DALLAS -- Walt Anderson said this morning that big hits are a part of football and should be celebrated. Then he spent a half hour explaining why some of those hits will now be cause for ejection.

There's a fine line there, the Big 12's supervisor of officials said during the league's football media days. What constitutes crossing it, however, is likely to be a point of contention throughout the coming college football season.

"You're going to have big hits in football and there's nothing wrong with that. We need to be celebrating big hits,'' Anderson said. "But what we don't want to celebrate, and we've got to get out of, is this culture of the targeting actions where really we're celebrating an illegal act and a potentially very dangerous act.''

Beginning this season, college football officials can eject a player for targeting, which is an illegal hit. Last year the act carried just a 15-yard penalty, which still stands.

There is a safety valve, though. The ejection part of the call is reviewable by the replay official. He can't overturn the penalty but he can overturn the ejection.

Anderson said officials will call targeting most often in four cases: hits on receivers, roughing the passer, hits on ball carriers and blind-side blocks. Aspects of a potential targeting call will include launching off the ground at a player, thrusting toward him, striking with the head or arms and using the crown of the helmet.

In other words, it's more complicated than simply helmet-to-helmet contact.

"There's a lot of helmet-to-helmet contact in a football game. As a matter of fact, in most of the helmet-to-helmet contact in a football game, the vast majority of that is perfectly legal. It's not a foul, shouldn't be called,'' Anderson said. "It's the intentional helmet-to-helmet contacts or other body parts to the helmet that we're working to try to eliminate.''

Just as there are signs officials will look for in calling the penalty, there are others they will consider in deciding not to do so. Primarily, a player is being asked to keep his head up, wrap up the ball carrier and keep the head to the side. Officials will also be considering quick changes of position by the offended player that can result in an unintended action by the player accused of targeting.

"We want you to put your head to the side, turn your shoulder into the player and lower your strike zone. And even if you do those things, there are going to be times when, just through the normal course of play, there may be some incidental contact,'' Anderson said. "We want to be sure we're differentiating that type of action from the intentional act of targeting a player high.''

Anderson also pointed out a few other changes to rules or application, most of which seem minor but could have significant impact late in games:

| The rule that says a player must leave the game for a play if his helmet comes off has been amended to include the opportunity to get the player back into the game by using a time out.

"The concern with coaches was that toward the end of the game, just through normal play as an example, his quarterback comes out and there's 35 seconds left in the game he had to go out for a play. They didn't feel that that was fair,'' Anderson said. "So the rules committee did make the change on that.  He does have to have a timeout, though.  If he's out of timeouts, the player will have to go out.''

| If the clock is stopped in the final two minutes because of injury, there will be a 10-second run-off, similar to the NFL.

| And if the clock is temporarily stopped at two seconds or less (between plays) and is to be started upon placement, spiking the ball to get an additional play is now illegal. The offense must snap the ball and run its play.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1


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