by Rob Moseley
Of the myriad rule changes adopted in college football this fall, most of them minor, the one drawing the most attention as the 2013 season approaches calls for an ejection in the event of a dangerous hit.
If a player is ruled to have used the crown of his helmet or targeted the head or neck area of an opponent, not only will his team be subject to a 15-yard penalty, but the player will be ejected. He will sit out the rest of the game if the infraction occurs in the first half, and also the first half of the next game if the hit occurs in the second half.
With Oregon's preseason camp set to open Monday, UO coaches say the threat of ejections won't affect the way they prepare players in practices. And they're as interested as everyone else in seeing how the rule is interpreted once the season begins.
"We'll address it, just in terms of the importance of the ejection," head coach Mark Helfrich said. "But if it's officiated how I think it should, and how we've talked about it with the conference, we're talking about non-football plays. We're talking about a cheap shot. We're talking deliberate, where 95 percent of the fans go, 'Wow, that guy should be ejected.' "
Sports Illustrated estimated, based on numbers from the Big 12 last season, that some 100 players nationally could face ejection in 2013. As Nick Aliotti pointed out, not all the ejection-worthy hits could be delivered by defenders with dangerous intentions.
"Sometimes you can't avoid it," Aliotti said. "You're going down to hit a guy, and he puts his head down."
A hit that earns an ejection is subject to replay review, which can provide an avenue for the player to remain on the field. Helfrich is concerned, however, about the fact the penalty yardage still will be marked off, even if the ejection is overruled.
"I just hope it doesn't come down to, 15-yard penalty, team makes a field goal (to decide a game,)" Helfrich said. "On an ejection that was overturned, but the penalty can't be overturned."
For now, though, coaches are focused on how they'll prepare the Ducks for taking the field this season, beginning Aug. 31 at home against Nicholls. And they say nothing will change despite the new threat of ejections for dangerous hits this fall.
"We never tell our guys to lead with the head anyway," Aliotti said. "Even in practice we tell our guys, 'If it's one of our players and he's in a defenseless position, don't even hit him. We know if you made the play or not. We'll assume you made it.' So I don't think it will change anything."