HOOVER, Ala. — Upon further review, the targeting rule that caused so much controversy in 2013 will remain, but with two major changes.
The rule will continue to penalize a player who targets or initiates contact at the head or below, or with the crown of the helmet. But this season, if the penalty is overturned during replay, the 15-yard penalty will not be enforced.
The rule also has been modified to include the words "initiate forcible contact" against an opponent, which is designed to make it easier for officials to determine when to throw a flag.
Steve Shaw, SEC coordinator of officials, said the rule accomplished what officials had hoped, and they believe it remains critical for player safety.
"We simply had to change player behavior for the good of the game," Shaw said. "When I look at video, I see evidence now of players lowering the target, quite frankly at times even pulling up on an unnecessary hit so they're not at risk for a targeting foul and disqualification. I think the rule has done exactly what we wanted it to do."
Also added this year is further protection for quarterbacks. Hitting a player below the knee "in a passing posture with one of both feet on the ground" is a penalty.
"Now you hit them above the knee and below the neck — that's really the strike zone for defenders," Shaw said.
SEC NETWORK: Four weeks before the launch of the SEC Network, Tampa and St. Petersburg area subscribers without Dish Network still don't have a carrier. Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president of programming for college networks, said with the six providers the network currently has, including Dish, more than 25 million homes will have access to the network.
"Any fan who wants the network can get it," Connolly said.
He said efforts to add other major carriers, including DirectTV, Comcast, Bright House (via Time Warner) and Verizon, are ongoing.
"I'd say we're confident about the conversations," Connolly said. "And our confidence is really based on the demand that's out there among SEC fans. You see the level of passion among this fan base, and I think it's unrivaled. … It's long negotiations, complicated issues. A lot of times these things don't come down until the very end. In many ways, you should ask that question of those providers."
A WORD OF COMPASSION: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel reached out to Florida coach Will Muschamp as the Gators struggled through a 4-8 season in 2013. Pinkel's Tigers defeated Florida 36-17, but he remembered 2012, when Missouri was 5-7 in its inaugural SEC season.
"I just think, when I see people have experiences similar to what we had, been a part of, I think what happens is I've had people reach out to me before, (I know) how important that's been to me," Pinkel said. "When I get an opportunity to do those kind of things, that's what I try to do.''