Hits to the head have become an epidemic in college football as the NCAA and leagues begin to react to strong moves by the National Football League to protect players.
It occurred early on in the season for the University of Montana when safety Jimmy Wilson was tagged twice in a game for what is described by officials as “targeting.”
Everyone in football is mindful of the danger of concussions and the repercussions of returning to play too soon, but it still is a judgment call whether, in a split second, a possible violating player leads with his head above the neck or the contact was unavoidable.
There have been countless television discussions and constant replays of dangerous plays where there was no doubt an offending player used a head-launching tactic that warranted suspension.
And just in October, Eastern Washington’s Artise Gauldin, Nebraska’s Eric Martin and Mississippi State’s Chris Hughes were suspended by their respective leagues for flagrant or unsportsmanlike fouls, which, in some cases, were not even flagged on the field and thus not recognized by anyone on the official crew.
If there is no foul signaled on the field or court, I’m not so much in favor of anyone going back through a slow-motion video tape and deciding what an officiating crew didn’t deem a necessary violation or didn’t see.
In other words, I’m not a proponent of instant replay or any kind of replay. Do not take the human element out of sports, but do be consistent at every level and in every league.
You also can count me as a guy who believes a player celebrating an outstanding or meaningful play should be allowed to celebrate as long as it isn’t demeaning to the opposition.
I’m not so fond of robotic reactions, although I truly appreciate players acting like they’ve been there before.
Each year it seems the NCAA comes up with a list of “concern areas,” where they place emphasis on officials to make a call, sometimes meant, in my opinion, to exert its control over college games.
Examples include protecting the quarterback or the player with the ball, contact in the block – you know the drill.
In the case of high hits, ESPN’s Merrill Hoge, an Idaho State University hall of famer, broke it down best for me in emphasizing how the influence and broadened scope of sports television has caused players to emulate what they see on SportsCenter.
Players often throw themselves rather than employing proper tackling techniques to make that big hit, which sometimes results in no tackle being made at all.
Coaches should be teaching the basics at the pee-wee level, rewarding proper technique, and personally penalize anyone at practice who doesn’t “break down” to make a tackle and instead head hunts or throws their body above the shoulders.
But let’s continue to encourage officials to do their job – albeit not always perfectly – and keep technology out of it.
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