Another adjustment is coming to college football’s oft-controversial targeting rules.
The NCAA announced Thursday that its playing rules oversight panel approved several rule changes, effective the 2022 season. Most notably, players who are ejected for targeting in the second half of a game can now appeal that ruling.
With any second-half targeting ejection comes a suspension for the first half of the subsequent game for the player in question. Now, that carryover penalty can be appealed via a request to the NCAA’s national coordinators of officials, who will further review the play. If it is determined that the targeting penalty was inaccurately assessed, the suspension for the following game can be overturned.
“If it is obvious that a player was incorrectly penalized for targeting, the call would be overturned, and the player would be cleared to play in the first half of the next game,” an NCAA release states.
Suspected fake injuries now subject to investigation
Players faking injuries to stop play has been a hot topic among coaches and administrators in recent years.
Any time a player goes down with an injury, an injury timeout is awarded to that player’s team, stopping play. As a result, there have been numerous examples of players—out of nowhere—falling to the turf with an injury of some sort only to return to the field a few moments later.
Now, teams that are “awarded an injury timeout through deceptive actions, can be reported and investigated.”
“Schools and conferences will be able to report questionable scenarios to the national coordinator of officials, who will review and provide feedback to the conference for further action. Any penalties levied would be up to the conference office or school involved,” the NCAA said.
When play is stopped for an injury, that player is required to sit out one play. The NCAA’s football rules committee considered making the requirement longer than just one play. Ultimately, they decided to keep it at one play.
“This concept was debated at length, but the committee was concerned with the additional issues that could be created and did not want to encourage players to continue to participate when injured,” the NCAA said.
The issue mainly seems to occur when defenses are trying to slow down fast-paced offenses.
With pace of play in mind, Stanford head coach David Shaw, who serves as the chair of the football rules committee, said allowing both teams the opportunity to substitute after a first down was also considered. It’s an idea that could be revisited in the future.
Kenny Pickett fake slide is now illegal
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett had one of the top highlight plays of the season when he tricked a few Wake Forest defenders with a slick fake slide in the ACC Championship Game.
Pickett pretended like he was going to slide and his would-be tacklers slowed up, allowing Pickett to then accelerate through the secondary for a 58-yard touchdown run.
That move is now illegal.
“If a ball carrier simulates a feet-first slide, officials will declare the runner down at that spot,” the NCAA said.
This ruling was expected. National coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said back in December that Pickett’s run should have been blown dead as soon as he indicated a feet-first slide:
Any time a ball carrier begins, simulates, or fakes a feet-first slide, the ball should be declared dead by the on field officials at that point. The intent of the rule is player safety, and the objective is to give a ball carrier an option to end the play by sliding feet first and to avoid contact. To allow the ball carrier to fake a slide would compromise the defense that is being instructed to let up when the ball carrier slides feet first.
A few other rule updates
The blocking below the waist rules has been tweaked. Only linemen and “stationary backs” can block below the waist, and they must do so inside the tackle box. Blocking below the waist is now prohibited outside the tackle box.
The oversight panel said the adjustment is meant to simplify the rule and “improve safety.”
Additionally, the panel said defensive holding will remain a 10-yard penalty and will always come with an automatic first down.