Southern Conference anti-targeting rule is severe

photo Southern Conference

The new anti-targeting rule in college football this season is strict. Put simply, if you intentionally hit a defenseless player above the shoulders, you're ejected.

In the Southern Conference, the punishment is even steeper.

According to the NCAA rule, passed in March by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, a player ejected in the first half for targeting will be eligible to play the entire game the following week. A player ejected in the second half will miss the first half of the next game.

What University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman has a problem with, and he said the rest of the coaches in the SoCon feel the same, is the league's rule that requires a one-game suspension for any unsportsmanlike ejection in any of the SoCon's 19 sports.

That means any ejection for targeting, even if it's on the opening kickoff, will force the offending player to sit out the next game as well.

"The football coaches are up in arms," Huesman said Tuesday. "We discussed that during media day with [commissioner John Iamarino] and expressed our concern with that rule. It's not fair and it shouldn't be that way.

"If our kid gets in a fight, if our kid gets two unsportsmanlike penalties, I agree with that rule -- penalize him. Targeting, it could be very, very inadvertent. I don't believe people are deliberately doing that."

Iamarino said the league's policy has been in place for many years. Coaches in other sports and school administrators have raised their objection to the automatic suspension before.

"Each time I've brought it to the league's executive committee and our chancellors, they have consistently said no, we think this is an important part of college athletics and we want to make sure everyone understands we mean business when it comes to sportsmanship," Iamarino said Monday.

During a conference call with Iamarino and the SoCon's athletic directors Wednesday, the league's suspension rule was discussed,UTC athletic director David Blackburn said.But there won't be any change in policy at this time.

For conferences like the SoCon that don't have replay officials who can immediately take a look at a hit to determine if it was a penalty or not, which will happen at most Bowl Subdivision games, there is an appeals process for targeting ejections.

A review committee, headed by national officiating coordinator Rogers Redding, will take a look at the plays in the days soon after the game and determine whether the ejection was merited.

"If they agree with it, then all the penalties in place will stand," Iamarino said. "If they don't agree with it, then the conference has the right to choose what to do."

Once SoCon games get going -- the first league game is Wofford at The Citadel on Sept. 7 -- the league's standings will reflect the pursuit of the championship. Because Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are transitioning to the FBS and are ineligible for the title due to having more than the Championship Subdivision limit of 63 scholarships, they will be in the eighth and ninth spots in the standings with an asterisk.

"It does seem to me to make more sense to have the standings reflect who actually is closer to earning the championship," Iamarino said.

The idea of not counting games against App State and Georgia Southern as league games this season was never considered.

"It never really came up in the league meetings," Iamarino said. "It was not proposed by the coaches."

The SoCon runs the FCS coaches' poll -- Huesman is among the voters -- and that poll is not including either App State or Georgia Southern. The Sports Network media poll will include the two schools that are leaving for the Sun Belt Conference after this season.

Contact John Frierson at or 423-757-6268. Follow him at