The head of SEC football officials said rule changes this year around targeting and overtime are aimed at player safety but the goal is to always make the right call.
Steve Shaw, SEC coordinator of football officials, said at SEC Football Media Days that those who officiate games in the conference are “honorable people” who aren’t perfect and will make mistakes. But, he said, “we’re going to work incessantly to correct those mistakes and hopefully prevent them from happening at all. That’s our job.”
With social media, ultra-high definition televisions and the ability to pause and rewind each play, there is increased opportunity for the public not only to second-guess officials, but to rant about it.
“We understand we’re under incredible scrutiny, never has it been more with the technology out there,” Shaw said. “The world is changing. So we’re going to try to do some new things to … help in communications, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Speaking of changes, Shaw said the big ones that fans will notice this year focus on targeting, overtime and certain blocks.
For targeting – perhaps the most polarizing of fouls – one big change will be that after replay, the official must either confirm targeting or overturn it. There will be no allowance for “stands,” meaning a determination couldn’t be made so the call on the field is upheld.
Because targeting is intended to change the technique a player uses when making a tackle (such as not lowering his head at contact or launching himself at a defenseless player), Shaw said a player who receives a third targeting call in a season will be disqualified from the current game and the next game. Previously, a single targeting call could lead to disqualification from the current game and first half of the next game if the foul occurred in the second half.
For games that go into multiple overtimes this year, Shaw said nothing will change through the first four overtimes. After two overtimes, teams are required to go for two-point conversions after touchdowns. Now, after four overtimes, teams will go straight into two-point plays from the three-yard line rather than running a series of plays attempting to score a touchdown.
The change is partly in response to the seven overtimes LSU and Texas A&M played last year, which caused the entire game to have 255 plays.
“It’s a way to still ultimately decide the game,” Shaw said. “There’s too many plays on some of these games. So this will be a great way to do it without changing the fabric of overtime.”
Other rule changes that are more subtle center on blindside blocks and low blocks for both offense and defense at the line of scrimmage.