The start of the 2013 college football season also means the start of a new emphasis regarding player safety and a new penalty enforcement for targeting fouls. The Big 12 Conference is at the forefront in terms of educating coaches, players, fans and the media.
"Player safety is a very important element of what we're doing," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "Head injuries are a real challenge. We need to have prevention reflected in the rules. We need to make sure that it's a game you can play safely and not compromise the rest of your life in the process of excellence."
The Big 12 has produced a public service announcement that focuses on player safety.
"We are working on a partnership with USA Football, which is an NFL undertaking that is intended to teach young people to play the game properly and to play it safely," Bowlsby said. "The initiative is called Heads Up Football."
As competition starts in the Big 12 this weekend, the new targeting penalty – which has been a hot topic for the past six weeks – will become a reality. Classified under safety rules, there are two subsets regarding targeting:
Rule 9-1-3: Targeting and Initiating Contact With the Crown of the Helmet. No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.
Rule 9-1-4: Targeting and Initiating Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player. No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul.
Both fouls include a 15-yard penalty but new this year is an automatic ejection for the player tho commits the penalty. Targeting penalties occurring in the first half will result in ejection for the remainder of the game; targeting penalties in the second half brings ejection for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next game.
Walt Anderson, the Big 12 coordinator of football officiating, helps explain the ins and outs of the targeting rule in this video.
"What we need to do is change certain types of behavior out on the football field to the extent possible with a contact sport, avoid unnecessary hits to the head," Anderson said. "The game is certainly, from the standpoint of focus and attention, is somewhat under attack now."