The NCAA forced the issue this week by recommending a rule that will eject anyone who is flagged for targeting a defenseless player.
"The tool we have is playing time," said Rogers Redding, secretary-editor of the NCAA football rules committee and national coordinator of officials. "The committee said we've got to get this play out of the game."
It is a bold move by the committee because it will invite backlash – not now, but in the fall. The first time a star player gets the boot for a helmet-to-helmet hit, everyone will lose their minds.
Can you imagine the outcry if South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney gets ejected for blasting a quarterback in the facemask?
The NCAA presumably can, yet it was willing to take this step anyway. Good for the association. That signals a legitimate concern about player safety – and even if that concern is being externally driven by forces outside of organized football, at least it exists.
"We're doing this because it's the right thing to do," Redding said. "The game is under attack. There's a lot of concern, legitimately, about concussions."
It's time. After watching what has happened to receivers like Austin Collie and quarterbacks like Steve Young, and countless others, there is no longer the latitude to simply shrug off head injuries as an unfortunate byproduct of the sport.
If the president says he'd think twice about letting his kids play football, he's not alone. If the sport wants to retain the trust of parents and the participation of their children, it has to reform. And part of that is a strong deterrent to kill shots.
The plays that once permeated highlight reels have become illegal, and are now ejectable. But it will take a strong and secure officiating crew to enforce that rule.
Ejections will be subject to booth review. The replay official cannot call a personal foul that wasn't called on the field, but can uphold or overturn one.
That's good, because the refs on the field will need the backup. Most helmet-to-helmet calls are bang-bang plays, and subject to interpretation. Did the receiver duck into the contact? Was the quarterback giving himself up or diving and creating the collision?
Still, the likelihood of an overturned call is slim, according to Ty Halpin, NCAA liaison to officials. He doesn't see replay becoming more invasive because of this implementation.
"Ninety-nine percent of the hits, they're no question going to stay with ejection," Halpin said.