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Report: Major College Football Rule Change Might Be Coming

Denzel Ward tackling a Maryland player during a college football game.

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 7: Denzel Ward #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes hits Taivon Jacobs #12 of the Maryland Terrapins after a reception in the first quarter at Ohio Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. Ward was ejected from the game after being assessed a targeting penalty for the hit. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

There might not be any single rule in sports that draws more criticism than targeting in college football. More specifically, the ejection component of the rule is what has fans, players, coaches and analysts up in arms.

According to Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger, there is a chance the much-maligned statute could be changed by next season. Dellenger reports that among high-ranking leaders in the sport, there "is movement afoot to at least consider an adjustment to the targeting foul’s most harsh individual punishment—the ejection."

"In fact, the NCAA’s own coordinator of officials, Steve Shaw, and a handful of conference commissioners as well as athletic administrators and coaches, expect the rule to be examined this offseason," Dellenger writes. "By the time the 2022 season kicks off, the hope is that the policy looks different."

The targeting rule, which was introduced in 2013, has been modified over the years, with officials now reviewing every targeting call in order to determine if a hit truly merits an ejection. Currently, players ejected for targeting must sit out the remainder of the game plus an additional half of the next game.

That last part is why there could be a holdup to any changes to the existing rule. Dellenger reports that there has been no proposal put forth yet that has unanimous agreement from around the sport.

“I have not seen a sophisticated plan and structure,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told Dellenger. “I will be the first to say I’m open to alternative approaches, but they have to be grounded in eliminating these hits. The ejection and suspension from the next half of a game is a fairly blunt instrument, but it makes the point to change behavior.”

To Sankey's point, maybe that harsh penalty has resulted in players being more cognizant of flagrant targeting and helmet-to-helmet contact. But it doesn't do anything to mitigate the issue of more "incidental" targeting calls leading to players being kicked out of games.

Some of these hits clearly don't have malicious intent behind them. Therefore, a two-level system of targeting figures to be the best approach, with more severe hits still being punished with ejections while lesser ones only merit a 15-yard penalty.