In case you aren't aware by now, you should be: players can now be ejected on the spot for drawing a targeting penalty. The powers that be in officiating have taken the burden upon themselves to change the culture of football through an attempt to legislate shots to the head out of the game entirely.
"When in doubt, throw him out," is the marching orders with which officials will take the field this season. “We have to change behavior,” said Big Ten official coordinator Bill Carollo. “Otherwise, we won’t have a game.”
We all have our thoughts on this issue (ours tend to align with our man KegsnEggs), but the opinions that matter belong to the men wearing the whistles. On that note, SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw took to the podium Tuesday morning at SEC Media Days to shed light on how his league will call games this fall.
"In a way our game is under attack," said Shaw. "The President of the United States said, 'If I had a son I'm not sure I'd let him play football.' Those are impactful words." So, like his colleagues in the Big Ten, the SEC will change the game one yellow flag at a time.
"Player behavior is modified by playing time. We learned that last year with the helmets coming off," said Shaw. "The targeting rule didn't change. The foul didn't change. Now, we expanded a defenseless player a little bit....But now the penalty phase of that carries the disqualification, and if it happens in the second half you're disqualified for the rest of that game and the first half of the following game."
Though ejecting a player for a split-second decision seems harsh (especially in an instance where, for example, a defender lunges for a player's chest only to make contact with his chin after the opponent ducks to avoid another hit), officials won't rule with absolute authority. The eye in the sky is still watching. "Now we have instant replay as a backstop," said Shaw, "so if it was an incorrect call, instant replay can look at it and put that player right back in the game."
One more significant change to note, quarterbacks are now deemed defenseless players no matter who has the ball. Should Quinton Dial's hit on Aaron Murray occur in the 2013 SEC Championship instead of last year's game, the Alabama defenisve end would spend the rest of the afternoon in the Georgia Dome locker rooms. "It doesn't mean he can't be touched. He can still be blocked hard, you just have to off his head," Shaw explained.