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FBS coaches support splitting targeting rule into two categories

SAN ANTONIO -- College football coaches want to see the targeting rule split into two categories that would determine whether certain hits delivered with the crown of the helmet carry malicious intent.

Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said Wednesday that the FBS coaches in their annual meeting unanimously supported a model that would assign Targeting 1 or Targeting 2 to a player who makes forcible contact with the crown of his helmet. Targeting 1 fouls would result in a 15-yard penalty but no ejection or suspension. Targeting 2 fouls would result in an automatic ejection and potential suspension.

The current rule states any targeting foul results in a player being automatically ejected and, if the foul occurred in the second half of a game, suspended for the first half of the next contest. Every potential targeting rule is reviewed by replay officials, and the reply booth can initiate a targeting review if it isn't called on the field.

Berry referred to flagrant fouls in basketball, where fouls are split into Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2, as a potential model for college football's targeting rule.

"Targeting 1 would carry a 15-yard penalty, meaning that there was no malicious intent here," Berry said. "We recognize this was not something where they're trying to hurt or maim someone else. Targeting 2 would be that of malicious intent, the one we're all trying to get rid of. And, to further that, our coaches have suggested if you have multiple Targeting 2 penalties over the course of the year, we would like to see that individual be even more severely punished than a one-game suspension. We need to eliminate those people from the game if we can't eliminate the act."

Berry will discuss the coaches' position at the NCAA convention later this month in Orlando, Florida. His hope is to gain support for a proposed rule change -- one of the FBS conferences would have to submit a proposal -- and get it on the legislative agenda by October. The earliest a change could happen would be the 2020 college football season.

Berry said coaches don't like the subjectivity of how targeting is officiated and the result of questionable calls. He referred to situations where a ball carrier lowers his head and a defensive player unintentionally makes contact with the crown of his helmet, resulting in a targeting ejection.

"I don't think we're getting light on targeting," Berry said. "If anything, we're becoming harsher in a sense because we're asking for those ones that we know are targeting. We're saying, 'Hey, we want these people eliminated for longer periods of time until they can learn, and if they can't learn, they need to be eliminated from the game.'"

Berry said the coaches discussed whether multiple Targeting 1 fouls would warrant an automatic ejection and didn't reach a consensus. The coaches also discussed whether players who commit targeting penalties should be forced to leave the field.

"Is that necessary? Or should you just take his helmet and let him stand on the sideline?" Berry said. "Because certainly when that player leaves the field, there's certainly a lot of attention that's given, and sometimes, unfortunately, there's applause in the stands. We shouldn't be celebrating anybody leaving the field."

Along with supporting changes to how targeting is handled, FBS coaches also expressed unanimous support against playing games on Friday nights.

"Friday nights should be a sanctuary for our high school football programs, and they should be free of college distractions," Berry said. "While we recognize that there are opportunities presented where our coaches aren't in the decision-making process, we continually ask others who are scheduling these college football games on Friday night to be concerned about it."