In recent years, the NFL has been, depending on your perspective, either at the forefront of protecting players from head injuries, or at the forefront of softening the physical nature of the game of football. But this season, college football may go further than the NFL ever has when it comes to taking hits to the head out of the game.
The NCAA has already approved a new rule for 2013 that mandates an ejection for any player who targets a defenseless opponent with a hit above the shoulders, but until the college football season starts, it’s tough to say just how strictly college football officials will enforce that rule. Tom Dienhart of Big Ten Network, however, is at a gathering of college football officials today, and he reports that they’re being instructed to take the new rule very, very seriously.
In fact, Dienhart’s takeaway from everything he heard about the new rule is, “get ready for ejections.”
The Big Ten’s marching orders for its officials on players who hit defenseless opponents in the head is, “When in doubt, throw him out.” The Big Ten (like the NFL) reviews questionable hits on the Monday after games and can suspend players, but the conference doesn’t want to deal with it on Mondays. The conference wants officials to deal with it on Saturdays, by ejecting players from games.
NFL officials also have the authority to eject players for hits to the helmet of defenseless opponents, but most of the time it’s just a 15-yard penalty and a fine from the league office after the fact. But if the new college rule leads to a perception that the NCAA is taking hits to the head more seriously than the NFL is, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NFL respond by matching the NCAA’s approach. It’s only a college rule for now, but NFL fans may need to get ready for ejections, too.