Football officials should also be held accountable for player safety


College football officials, including replay officials, must be held accountable for failure to protect players from concussions despite rules put in place for just such occurrences.

A hit on receiver Francis Owusu has caused Stanford football coach David Shaw to plea for a change in how helmet-to-helmet hits are officiated.

Owusu received a concussion on a play that was not penalized. Even after replay review, targeting was not called despite clear helmet-to-helmet contact.

From the American Football Coaches Association:

Targeting and Initiating Contact With the Crown of the Helmet (Rule 9-1-3)

No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.

Targeting and Initiating Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player (Rule 9-1-4)

No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul. (Rule 2-27-14)

ESPN broadcasters said UCLA's Tahaan Goodman was "head-hunting" and that the blow he delivered "goes on the film as to what targeting is."

A key indicator for targeting is "Lowering the head before attacking by initiating contact with the crown of the helmet."

Compare it to the targeting call made against Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith in a game earlier Saturday, in which it is obvious Smith was going for an interception and brushed his shoulder pads against a Michigan receiver's face mask.

A key element in whether the rule has been violated is the word "defenseless." Owusu apparently was not considered defenseless because he had taken several steps with the ball.

"It's not about being defenseless or not, it's about making the game as safe as we can possibly make it," Shaw said. "We should not lead with our helmet against someone else's helmet."

How does a receiver, who has the ball, defend against such a vicious hit? Did it ever look like Goodman was trying to do anything else except launch himself, helmet first, into Owusu's face?

Bruins' Adarius Pickett, very clearly, had his arms extended, and head lowered, trying to tackle Owusu on the play. Goodman had no intention of making a tackle and even had his left arm tucked into his stomach.

Watch the replay and count the steps. Owusu was facing Goodman, one, two, three steps, launch and blind-sided at full speed against a receiver surrounded by three Bruins.

Shaw: "As a college football coach who … has to sit in these living rooms year after year and say that we're going to do the best thing we can for their young people in the classroom and on the football field, and that we're going to try to take care of them, plays like this should be penalized so they stop happening."

Why did Goodman go high with his hit? He never tried to tackle Owusu, his hands never wrapped around the receiver. It was clear all he was trying to do was deliver a hit, using a lethal weapon.

"If we don't penalize them, they will continue to happen," Shaw said. "To me, that's common sense … There is language that obviously needs to be amended, preferably sooner rather than later. I think that you will get relatively unanimous support for specific language that takes helmet-to-helmet collisions out of the game. I'm telling you what I believe as a college football coach, as a leader of young men who loves this sport and wants it to be played physically, and also wants it to be played as safe as possible."

Those kind of hits are not taught by the UCLA coaching staff, but young men get caught up trying to "put the hurt" on their opponents.

"I understand the letter of the law; it's been quoted to me several times in the last 24 hours. But to me, it's immaterial."

Owusu will not play Friday.

-- David Kiefer contributed to this report.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Players are the ones
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 27, 2016 at 2:50 pm

You can blame anyone you want but at the end of the day it's the PLAYERS who are the ones doing the hitting to create this problem. It starts with them. On one hand football players complain about head injuries on the other hand they keep hurting opposing players!! They know the risks and damage- many don't care!

I say clear head to head tackles or contact- player is ejected immediately. Perhaps that will help but won't entirely stop it given the culture of football.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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