Sampsell: TV will focus on ‘targeting’ rule

As an early spoiler alert for college football fans who watch games on TV this season, you’ll have an as-it-happens, front-row seat for what will surely be some of the most controversial plays of the season.

That’s because a new emphasis on dangerous hits carries the penalty of an automatic ejection if a player gets flagged for “targeting.”

So before viewers celebrate a big hit, they’ll need to check for yellow laundry on the field. Then, with the ability of TV directors to find the right angle for almost every play – and certainly for replays – controversial collisions will be examined endlessly. There’s no doubt those plays will happen.

With the rules (which have existed for at least five years) as point of emphasis this season, some well-intentioned member of the crew who feels pressure to do his job well will make a call that forces a player from the game.

Because of the current emphasis on head injuries, it’s certainly a hot topic, and it is a safety issue. But giving officials one more thing to look for – and one more judgment call to make – seems like a recipe for problems. Eventually coaches and players will figure it out, but it shapes up initially as football’s version of basketball’s block-charge call with higher consequences.

Of course, it will make good TV and provide fodder for sports-talk radio and TV.

Paterno presence

ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg appropriately and honestly used the Paterno family to make a point earlier this week.

When talking about people fighting for a passion or sticking to their story (and the context was a conversation about tainted baseball star Ryan Braun), Greenberg said he respected those who took a stand – even if it was not popular and especially if it related to a family member.

“I will defend Jay or any of the Paternos for going to the wall and trying to defend, or do whatever they have to do to defend, their father,” Greenberg said.

He said he would do the same for a family member in the same situation.

State ‘snub’

Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel offered up a list of college football’s 10 best and five worst coaches earlier this month, and much of the feedback afterward focused on Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.

Here’s Mandel’s response to an online question from a fan in Richmond, Va.: “O’Brien got the most ‘snub’ emails of any coach I left off my list, and I certainly agree that he’s off to a great start in State College. But don’t you think we should wait more than one season before ranking him alongside the likes of Gary Patterson and Bob Stoops? I seem to recall another former Patriots offensive coordinator who swept in and impressed during his debut season at a prominent college program. You now know him as the current head coach at Kansas.”

Tuner tidbits

n Sports Illustrated’s Peter King this week launched a website under the SI umbrella that focuses on the NFL, and ESPN announced the hiring of Nate Silver, a well-established and respected demographics/numbers expert from The New York Times to have his own home under the ESPN mothership online. They join ESPN’s Bill Simmons, who created “Grantland,” as individual media members who have built some pretty valuable brands.

n Even before it launches, Fox Sports 1 does have a credibility problem with its coverage of college football. Its best and most respected expert might be official Mike Pereira, who remains unparalleled in that role. Still, FS1 needs someone with some actual team and sport knowledge at that same level of respect.

Steve Sampsell covers the broadcast side of sports. He’s may be contacted at with comments and story ideas.