Dr. Saturday

Penalty on Alabama’s Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix shows how terrible the NCAA’s targeting rule is (Video)

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

Look, we understand how and why the NCAA feels the need to help prevent head injuries in football. Concussions are dangerous and nothing to mess with. That said, the new targeting rule needs a lot of work.

The perfect example was Alabama's Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix on Saturday against Texas A&M. Clinton-Dix went over to defend a pass thrown from Johnny Manziel to Darel Walker, and he and Walker collided as he tried to intercept the pass.

Yes, it was a hard collision, and yes, the two players' helmets made contact. However, Clinton-Dix was clearly playing the ball. Nevertheless, a flag was thrown on the play and Clinton-Dix was penalized 15 yards for targeting and was (temporarily) tossed from the game.

By rule, every player penalized for targeting is ejected for the game (or also for half of the next one if the penalty occurs in the second half) in addition to a 15-yard foul. But each targeting penalty is also reviewable.

The officials immediately reviewed the play and Clinton-Dix was allowed to stay in the game, as the the hit was not viewed as one worthy of a targeting penalty. However, the 15-yard penalty stood.

We knew going into the season that the possibility of what happened on Saturday existed. And in practice, it's even dumber than it looked on paper. It makes absolutely no sense why the ejection portion of the penalty is eligible to be overturned while the yardage portion isn't. Because the official threw the flag -- a flag that was shortly thereafter deemed to be erroneous -- Texas A&M received 15 free yards.

The Aggies ultimately punted on the drive, so the yardage didn't cost Alabama in its 49-42 victory, but its only a matter of time before the yardage accrued on an overturned targeting call impacts a drive significantly. And there's no reason for it.

Common sense when it comes to player safety is of the utmost importance. However, that common sense should also be applied to the penalties designed to protect the players. Headshots are dangerous. But if a penalty isn't ultimately deemed dangerous enough and is overturned, there's no justification for not overturning the yardage marked off as well.

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