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UC’s Fickell Is Spot On

University of Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, upon receiving the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year honor last week, expressed some candor in his remarks regarding college football.

He said he wanted to see an end to disqualifying players for targeting.

“I want us to stop ejecting players,” he essentially said.

I think Fickell stands in a long line. Sure, “targeting” as they like to call it, where defensive players begin their engagement of ballcarriers with the crown of their helmet, is a dangerous practice. There have been many concerns about concussions, many resulting from targeting.

I’m all for the safety of the players. Too many concussions can have deleterious effects long after the initial injury. But athletes in the 21st century are trained to be a lot bigger, faster and stronger. We learn in physics class that mass multiplied by velocity equals momentum. When you get two highly-skilled, highly-trained athletes, both of whom are well over six feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds, both traveling with 4.4 speed, that’s going to be a colossal collision.

Football is a bang-bang sport. Defenders who are about to engage ballcarriers are going to break down for the hit, while moving at 4.4 speed. When contact is made, often, both players lower their heads.

Ouch, headache. There is no real intent. It’s not like the Raiders’ Jack Tatum, who routinely targeted players. If he hadn’t passed, asked New England’s Darryl Stingley. Players are taught to form tackle, but when facing a high rate of closure, helmet-to-helmet contact is bound to happen. It wasn’t intentional. A defender was just doing his job, making a play.

Yet, after another ridiculously lengthy video review, 90 percent of the time, the defensive player is “convicted” and is escorted from the field. Intent is so hard to prove, or disprove for that matter.

Often, an ejection happens to one of the top defenders. It happened to LSU against Alabama during LSU’s title run a couple of years ago. It happened to Tennessee years ago against Appalachian State. A call like that by a ref without much experience could change the complexion of a game, and perhaps a season, if a star player was given his exit visa and his team lost.

I’m okay with the personal foul call, but I’m with Fickell. We’re kicking out too many players.

Fans didn’t pay good money or scalp tickets to see a bunch of guys in stripes.

Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs from 4-6 p.m., Monday-Thursday on WRJB, 95.9 FM, Camden.

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