DALLAS - Walt Anderson, the Big 12's supervisor of officials, said Tuesday 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.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has listened intently to Anderson and others who have tried to explain college football's new targeting rules and he's still not sure what to make of them. Get back to him in a few weeks, he said.
Karl Joseph? Well, he was asked about targeting probably 50 times Tuesday during the Big 12's annual media day event here. By the end of the day he was probably wondering if he had cause for concern, even though the thought had never really crossed his mind.
And with good reason. No one has even brought it up to him.
"It's really unfair to Karl to be asked these questions,'' Holgorsen said. "He doesn't know what you're talking about.''
Well, here's what we're talking about. In reaction to concerns over concussions and the generally violent nature of the sport, college football's rule makers are cracking down on intentionally vicious and dangerous hits.
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. Beginning this season, officials can eject a player for targeting, which most commonly might mean using the helmet as a weapon but can also include things such as launching into an opponent or an unnecessarily high hit.
Last year the act carried just a 15-yard penalty, which still stands. As for the ejection part, there is a safety valve. The ejection part of the call is reviewable by the replay official. He can't overturn the penalty but he can overturn the ejection.
How does this relate to Joseph? Well, West Virginia's starting free safety was generally the hardest hitter on an otherwise passive defense for the Mountaineers last season. The prevailing theory among WVU fans seems to be that if anyone is likely to incur scrutiny for hits it would be the sophomore.
Holgorsen disagrees, characterizing Joseph's hits as aggressive, not dirty (he actually first said "vicious,'' then said "that's not the right word''). Still, with such uncertainty over how such things are going to be interpreted by officials this season, he's taking no chances.
"When I get back [to Morgantown] one of the first things we'll do is have our video people put together a tape of Karl's 10 most aggressive hits ... and I'll send them to Walt Anderson and tell him to judge them,'' Holgorsen said. "We'll get clarification back and then in a week and a half, two weeks when we sit down and meet with our team we will explain the rule. We haven't done that yet so it's not fair to him to be asked these questions and be put on the spot without knowing what's going on.''
So what will Joseph and everyone else be taught this year about targeting? Well, good question. And a hard one. Even Anderson has trouble explaining it.