Saban wants change to targeting penalties
Alabama coach Nick Saban isn't against the new targeting rules in college football, but he wants to see a change in the way they're implemented.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas coach Mack Brown said Monday they are not against the new targeting rules in college football, but they both want to see a change in the way the penalties are implemented.
Crimson Tide safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was called for targeting, assessed a 15-yard penalty and ejected from Saturday's game at Texas A&M. The ejection was overturned after officials reviewed the play and saw Clinton-Dix going for the ball and not a big hit to the head of the receiver, but the 15-yard penalty and first down remained, much to Saban's chagrin.
"Personally, on the rule itself, if you can review a play to say a guy should be ejected or not be ejected, to me, you should be able to review if it was a penalty or not a penalty," Saban said Monday. "That's not what the rule is. You asked me my opinion. I'm giving you my opinion."
By rule, a replay review of a targeting call can overturn only an ejection, but the 15-yard penalty stands. If a player is ejected in the second half of a game, he is suspended for the first half of his team's next game as well.
At his news conference Monday, Brown echoed Saban's sentiments.
"If we're going to go upstairs, and we're going to make a decision that it was not head-to-head and intentional, and if we're going to make the decision it wasn't even really a penalty, but since our rules says we can't pick it up, if we're going to take our time to delay the game and go up and make sure it's not targeting, why in the world can't you say, in fact, he hit him with his shoulder and it's [not] even a penalty? I think that's where it needs to change," Brown said.
"If we're going upstairs, let's be fair to the teams, too. Let's be fair to the young man who makes a great hit that is not targeting and we can say, 'Well, you're right, Coach. We missed it, but we can't take it back.' Let's take it back. Let's make it fair and do what's right. To me that makes so much sense, it's too simple."
"Players aren't going to like it, but you have to respect the refs' decision," Phillips said. "We can't change the way we play. We still have to go out there and do what we know, do what we're taught to do and just trust the refs make the right decision."
In the season's opening week, Colorado State linebacker C.J. James, Cal defensive end Chris McCain and Southern linebacker Daniel Brown had their ejections reversed, but ejections to five other players stood.
Saban said he was unsure whether Clinton-Dix hit the receiver in the head but that he was confident he shouldn't have been ejected. Saban was reluctant to question the referees, however, pointing out the difficulty in making the call in such a tough environment.
"Now, we can go question somebody's judgment. I'm not willing to do that because the guy had to make the call like that," he said, snapping his fingers, "like a lot of calls get made in the game. I thought the crew tried to do the best job they could."
"There was a lot of stuff that happened in our game, a lot of stuff. A lot of plays, a lot things that you could evaluate from the officiating standpoint," Saban said. "But I think everyone has to understand in a game like that, when the other team is going fast, it's a lot harder for them, too. It's a lot harder for them to get in position, it's a lot harder for them to make some of these calls."
For his part, Clinton-Dix said he didn't have any hard feelings about the call, but that didn't change how he felt in the moment.
"I was getting ready to let my team down," Clinton-Dix told reporters after the game. "How would you feel?"
Alabama safety Landon Collins watched the hit Saturday and said his first thought was, "Nice hit." He didn't see Clinton-Dix's hands go up, but he saw the collision that ensued.
"I saw the flag and I was like, 'Oh God, don't let it be helmet-to-helmet,'" Collins said. "He left his feet, but he was actually going for the ball. At that time I was worried, thinking we didn't need any players going down or going out the game."
Collins said the rule has affected the way he plays defense.
"It changes a lot," he said. "It's a lot more thinking now. You can't just go flying toward the ball or going any type of way toward the ball. You have to have a form tackle."
Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri, for one, disagreed with Collins.
"I go 110 miles per hour every single play," Sunseri said. "Whenever the ball's in the air, I just try to go attack it. If I hit somebody, I'm going to try and make sure it's within the rules. That's what we're trying to do."
ESPN.com's Max Olson contributed to this report.
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