Starkey: NCAA gets 1 right in matter of player safety
TribLIVE Sports Videos
When it comes to protecting an athlete's gray matter, there should be as little gray area as possible.
Who would have thought the largely toothless, usually useless NCAA would be this country's first major sports organization to understand that?
As the NHL and NFL continue to complicate the head injury issue, the NCAA moves rapidly toward a bona fide crackdown.
It plans to start kicking offenders out of games.
Its rationale is two-fold:
1. If you don't like high hits on defenseless players, seek to eliminate them.
2. Seek to eliminate them by making a rule that serves as a colossal deterrent.
This past week, the NCAA Football Rules Committee unanimously approved just such a rule: A player who delivers a targeted head shot on a defenseless player will be ejected from the game. And if the foul occurs in the second half or overtime, he'll have to sit out the next one, too. The measure needs only final approval from the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets next month.
Sure, the NHL and NFL have been willing to suspend egregious or repeat head-shot offenders. But their punishments mostly are measured in money — by way of fines — or by meager penalties doled out in yardage (NFL) or time served in a box (NHL).
That's not enough.
You want real change? Start kicking guys out of games on a regular basis.
Sorry, but unchecked violence on the football field cannot be an option anymore. Helmets have become weapons. Video-game blow-up shots — as opposed to, you know, tackling — have become commonplace, as have stories of brain damage among ex-players.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson is among those in favor of the proposal.
“I'm 100 percent in favor of anything that makes the game safer,” Pederson said. “When there are targeted hits, that's just unacceptable, and there has to be swift punishment. This appears to have been very directly addressed.”
Directness is the key. I loved the way Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun, chairman of the rules committee, addressed the issue. Referring to players leading with the crowns of their helmets, hitting defenseless players above the shoulders, Calhoun told CBSSports.com, “It's a real problem in the sport, and we need to eliminate it.”
Calhoun explained that in major college football last season, there were 99 called targeting penalties that would have resulted in ejections — not just a 15-yard penalty — under the proposed new rule. He said the targeted player, in many of those instances, suffered a concussion or other injury.
This will never be an easy penalty to assess. The game is too fast. But the committee addressed that, too: While on-field officials will make the calls, ejections will be subjected to video replay. The replay official can overturn the ejection portion of a call — the 15-yard penalty would remain.
I'd rather see the replay official with more power. He should be able to signal down to the field if he spots a targeted head shot. He also should be the one making calls on ejections.
But this will do.
Will there be complications? Of course. Defining “defenseless” and measuring intent always will be two of them.
Players also will lower their targets, which could create more lower-body injuries.
Active players will tell you they'd rather take a shot to the skull.
Retired players, particularly the ones with brain issues, might tell you differently. Their families surely would.
Kudos to college football for tackling the issue.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His column appears Thursdays and Sundays. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers RB Bell smoking marijuana before traffic stop but denied being high, records show
- Distracted Steelers show nothing in loss to Eagles
- Man, woman sought in PNC robbery in Uniontown
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- NFL could delay punishment
- Pitcairn police department to carry Narcan for heroin overdoses
- Steelers notebook: Keisel dresses, but doesn’t play
- Youngwood shelter removes 44 dogs, 9 cats from shuttered Fayette SPCA
- New Kensington slaying victims identified
- Will soft foes mean fast start to the season for Pitt football team?
- LaBar: Hulk Hogan wants to fight Brock Lesnar?