Early Friday afternoon, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott revealed his progressive stance on limiting contact in practices. Then, later in the afternoon, Stanford coach David Shaw—one of Scott's most prominent figureheads—backed him up with a similarly reformist position.
Broached with a question on the NCAA's new "targeting" rule, Shaw said that it was a necessary evil, according to Dan Greenspan of NFL.com:
The new rule calls for immediate ejections after a defender "targets" a defenseless player, hitting him above the shoulders. Though a replay official can change the call on the field, the NCAA's beseeching attitude on ejections still seems severe—especially since a player ejected for targeting in the second half of one game must sit out the first half of the following game as well.
The rule, which was lambasted upon its announcement, has resurfaced as a hot topic during media days the past two weeks. Coaches and players have all been asked to give their opinions, as was ACC official Doug Rhoads, who said he would have ejected Jadeveon Clowney for "The Hit" in last year's Outback Bowl, according to Heath Cline of 107.5 The Game:
Rhoads' comments in particular have sparked a firestorm, with outrage pouring in from every corner of the Internet. Clowney's hit is famous and revered, and almost every angle it was shown from makes it look clean.
The rule, though, is in place to mitigate the wave of concussion-related injuries in football—an issue some believe is the biggest threat to the sport going forward. Just Thursday, sixth-round pick Ryan Swope had to retire—as a rookie—from the Arizona Cardinals due to concussions he suffered in college, per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
Because of how many hits he took at Texas A&M, Swope's NFL career was over before it began.
Shaw also said that he brought in NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott—one of the hardest-hitting safeties in football history—to speak with his team. According to Shaw, via Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Lott said that if this rule was around during his time, he would have found a way to adjust:
Shaw's comments might not make him the most popular coach in football, as the prevailing opinion seems to be against this rule entirely. And we'll see how much he likes it once one of his players is ejected on dubious grounds.
But for now, just like his commissioner, it's nice to see Shaw takes player safety seriously.