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NCAA clarifies rules on targeting fouls, helmet-to-helmet hits

The NCAA has issued two new interpretations to guide how officials should identify targeting fouls, one of which is meant to clarify the exact location of the "crown" -- the part of the helmet which must be used to incur such a targeting penalty.

"It seems that some officials have been interpreting the crown of the helmet to mean the tip-top portion of the helmet only," NCAA Football Secretary-Rules Editor Rogers Redding said in a release. "We want everyone to understand that the crown of the helmet starts from the area above the facemask to the dome of the helmet."

The NCAA's reiteration, which comes in the aftermath of Stanford wide receiver Francis Owusu's concussion at UCLA last week, clashes with a Pac-12 statement supporting its officials' decision not to penalize the Bruins' Tahaan Goodman for his hit on the play.

"While there was certainly helmet-to-helmet contact, neither the game officials on the field or the replay officials called targeting because contact was with the front of the helmet and not the crown (top) of the helmet," the conference said in a release.

Replays showed that Goodman appeared to hit Owusu's helmet with the area above his facemask. According to the NCAA's release, that counts as the crown -- meaning that the hit should have been flagged for targeting.

Stanford coach David Shaw advocated for rules changes as a result of the non-call this week, saying that a targeting penalty should blanket all helmet-to-helmet contact -- and not just that initiated by the crown of the helmet.

"To me, the letter of the law is immaterial," Shaw said. "If you have contact on one helmet to another helmet, that should be a penalty. We should go back and reword our rulings, go back and reteach our officials and our replay officials. We're trying to take care of these young men. Plays like this should be penalized so that they stop happening. If we don't penalize them, they will continue to happen.... There is language [in the rulebook] that obviously needs to be amended, preferably sooner than later. And I think you'll get relatively unanimous support for such language."

The second interpretation released by the NCAA on Friday pertained to replay officials, who have the opportunity to stop the game to determine if an egregious targeting foul was missed by on-field officials.

"There have been some instances where this rule could've been applied for targeting fouls," Redding said. "We want to provide more guidance so that this rule is applied more consistently."