FBS sees huge spike in targeting penalty enforcement so far

Hawaii wide receiver Kalakaua Timoteo drops the ball and gets leveled by UCLA linebacker Josh Woods and hit from behind by defensive back Mossi Johnson during the second half of a Sept. 9 game in Pasadena, Calif. Woods was penalized for targeting and ejected. College football’s Bowl Subdivision has seen a 73-percent increase in the number of targeting penalties enforced through the first three weeks of the season compared with the same point in 2016. (Alex Gallardo/AP Photo)
Hawaii wide receiver Kalakaua Timoteo drops the ball and gets leveled by UCLA linebacker Josh Woods and hit from behind by defensive back Mossi Johnson during the second half of a Sept. 9 game in Pasadena, Calif. Woods was penalized for targeting and ejected. College football’s Bowl Subdivision has seen a 73-percent increase in the number of targeting penalties enforced through the first three weeks of the season compared with the same point in 2016. (Alex Gallardo/AP Photo)

College football's Bowl Subdivision has seen a 73 percent increase in the number of targeting penalties enforced through the first three weeks of the season compared with the same point in 2016.

National coordinator of officials Rogers Redding said Wednesday that 55 targeting penalties have been enforced in 214 games (0.26 per game). Last year at this time, 35 targeting penalties had been enforced in 230 games (0.15).

Targeting is called if a player uses the crown of his helmet to strike an opponent above the shoulders or strikes the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with a helmet, forearm, hand, elbow or shoulder.

Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo said the early numbers are alarming.

"I fired off an email to a few people to say we need to do something about this," he said. "Let's not wait until the end of the season. Not let's wait to do a study. I don't have all the answers, but it needs to get to the level of commissioners, athletic directors and partnering with coaches."

The rule didn't change from last year. Targeting penalties that are upheld by video review result in a 15-yard penalty and the ejection of the player called for the targeting.

Redding said the increase in number of calls could be attributed to on-field and replay officials becoming more comfortable making the call.

Last year, for the entire 2016 season, there was an average of 0.17 targeting calls enforced per game. The 0.26 per game so far this season is a 53 percent increase.

Redding said comparing the first three weeks of 2016 to the first three weeks of 2017 is a better gauge because games in September tend to be played differently because there are more mismatches, and less experienced players are on the field.

Redding said there have been 75 targeting penalties called on the field through three weeks, and 20 of them have been overturned on review. Last year, there were 44 fouls called on the field through three weeks, with nine of them overturned.

Of the 55 targeting penalties enforced, 15 of the calls were initiated by the replay official. Redding said he did not have complete data for how many calls were made by replay officials last year.

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