A Real “Targeting” Penalty
The objective football fan in you can decide just how severe the hit on Syracuse Quarterback Eric Dungey, by Central Michigan defender Mitch Stanitzek, was. Stanitzek was given a targeting penalty and ejected. That was also Dungey’s last play of the game, as he is injured. Even worse, he is now likely to miss the upcoming game between Syracuse (3-0) and Louisiana State (3-0). While Syracuse was a long shot to reach a bowl, much less go undefeated, the impact of the Dungey injury is that it is that much less likely that Syracuse can pull off the upset. Needless to say, the cheap shot by Stanitzek has an impact on Dungey and Syracuse that goes beyond just the week 3 game. Is a mere one-game ejection enough? There is a good argument that such plays deserve a more serious penalty–a real “targeting” penalty.
Watch that play one more time. See how many steps Stanitzek took before he striking the already wrapped up Dungey. If there is going to be a targeting penalty, this seems like the perfect example.
In discussing this issue with other Syracuse fans, the question that came up is whether the 15-yard penalty and ejection are enough of a penalty. While Stanitzek will get to play this week, Dungey will not. How is THAT fair? It is not.
Life isn’t fair, of course. But that does not mean that there is not a relatively simple solution to make things a bit more fair.
The solution is this–if a player is ejected for a targeting penalty, and the penalty results in an injury, then the offending player is not only ejected, but ineligible to play until after the injured player “returns.” “Returns” could be defined as “being released to return to full contact practice” or actually playing in a game. If the latter, for Stanitzek that would mean having to sit out a game this week, and then having to sit out another few weeks as Syracuse is on a bye in Week 5 and Dungey would not play until Week 6. If the former, Stanitzek could return once Dungey is cleared to resume practice–presumably right after Week 5.
To make it fair, the NCAA could create a committee of former players from a cross-section of positions and schools to review the hits to determine whether that penalty should be waived under the circumstances. If these players could justify not imposing the penalty, then so be it. If these players kept that penalty in place, so be it also.
Even so, is that too severe a penalty? Perhaps. But the NFL is learning that concussions are a life-threatening issue. If Stanitzek had ended Dungey’s playing career or broken his neck (paralysis even?), would it still seem too severe? How would it be fair for one player to finish out his mediocre career playing for what some fans are calling “Cheapshot Michigan University,” while a player he injured is confined to being an armchair QB, confined to a wheelchair, or even killed? There are plenty of places to hit a player below the neck/head region. And when you get two steps before hitting a player that is wrapped up and falling–you have time to either hit them below the neck or, better yet, don’t hit them at all.
This is not advocating for softening football into a flag football sport. All football fans love the contact nature of the sport. Instead, this is about protecting the futures (on and off the field) for all football players.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS THE CURRENT PENALTY SUFFICIENT? TOO STRONG ALREADY (INDEED, THERE HAVE BEEN COMPLAINTS REGARDING TARGETING CALLS)? TOO WEAK?