In an effort to
lessen its potential liability for lawsuits promote player safety, the NCAA has strengthened the so called Targeting Rule. Last season the rule was controversial in its application, and D.J. Swearinger was a victim of the selective enforcement for one of his hits. He served a one game suspension as a result of a review completed after the game. In the offseason the NCAA has made ejection mandatory at the time of the penalty.
However, for such an important and game changing rule, there isn't much understanding of it. It is often incorrectly called the 'helmet to helmet' rule, which is at best incomplete. It is confused with the NFL's version of the rule, and it is often assumed that all big hits must run afoul of the rule. At ACC media days the ACC head of officials infamously mused that Clowney should have been flagged for his hit in the Outback Bowl. The consensus is that the ACC official was incorrect, but misunderstanding persists. Here's what you need to know about the rule.
First, it's not one rule, but two. The first rule is 9-1-3. It is short. It reads:
No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.
In order for there to be a foul a player, not just a defender but a player, must initiate contact against an opponent with the top of his helmet. Notice its not the front of the helmet; it's not the forehead; it has to be the top. Watch this get botched all year. The rule says the crown and defines that as the top. However, that's not all that has to happen for there to be a foul. The player has to also "target ... an opponent." Targeting is defined as a note to the rule: