It’s not often the college football community agrees on what targeting is or isn’t, but everyone likely agrees that LSU linebacker Devin White’s hit on Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in Week 8 was not targeting. Still, the call stood, meaning White will miss the first half of the Tigers’ Nov. 3 showdown against Alabama. It’s understandable that LSU coach Ed Orgeron would object to the call. It was wrong, and now he’s down one of his best players for 30 minutes against the No. 1 team in the country. But Orgeron is taking it a step further by calling for further examination of both the rule and its consequences at the NCAA level.
“I don’t think that targeting should have been called. I think he tried to pull off and I think it’s a very stiff penalty,” Orgeron said of White at a foundation luncheon on Tuesday, via ESPN. “He did not try to hit him with his head. He put his hands in front, but it’s the rule, so we have to move on.”
“Hopefully they do something about it. I think something needs to be done,” Orgeron continued. “I’m going to voice my opinion and that’s all I can do.”
It’s one thing for officials to call targeting in real time when the game is at full speed, but it’s unacceptable for the official review to determine that White’s hit was targeting. Bad calls happen all the time, but few carry over the consequences like the targeting rule. Moreover, the targeting rule was well-intended when it was introduced, but it’s been inconsistently applied on a weekly basis. However, the ultimate goal of changing the way players tackle — at least on the defensive side — has started to come to fruition. It’s ironic, then, that White was penalized for clearly making an effort to avoid all the things identified in the rule.
Situations like this one where the call is so egregiously wrong are rarer than many of the close calls that are synonymous with the targeting rule. But if the goal is to get the call right, the NCAA has to balance that with its concern for player safety. That matters, too.
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