A new football rule going into effect this season requires that players who target and contact defenseless opponents above the shoulders will be ejected. The change increases the on-field penalty for targeting by adding the automatic ejection to the existing 15-yard penalty.

The rule, passed by the Football Rules Committee in February and approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel in March, addresses the committee’s concern about player safety by taking more measures to remove targeting, or above the shoulder hits on defenseless players, out of the game.

The rule in football means that discipline for players flagged for violations will mirror the penalty for fighting. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.

In an effort to address concerns when one of these plays is erroneously called on the field, the ejection portion of the penalty will be reviewable through video replay. The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field.

Additionally, a postgame conference review remains part of the rule, and conferences retain their ability to add to a sanction.

The action by the committee continues a progression to address dangerous contact through its rules. Targeting, initially approved by the committee as a separate foul in 2008, has been generally successful in terms of its application by officials, which made the committee feel comfortable in adding to the penalty.

Another new rule effective this season regards blocking below the waist.

In the past two years, the Football Rules Committee has adjusted rules governing these blocks in an attempt to reduce or remove potentially dangerous plays. But the changes have caused more confusion and inconsistency than intended. The new rule focuses on the block itself and will allow these blocks by stationary players in typical line play.

Other football rules changes this season for fans to look for include:

• Adding a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock stoppage is because of injury.
• Establishing three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.
• Requiring a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce it.
• Precluding multiple players from the same team from wearing the same uniform number (for example, two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).
• Allowing the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew (the practice was used successfully on an experimental basis by the Southeastern Conference). This is a permissive rule and not a requirement.
• Allowing instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was in place only for the end of each half.
• To clarify uniform rules as follows: “Jerseys must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, and be of one solid color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number.” This rule goes into effect for Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2013. Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III teams will have until 2014 before the rule becomes effective.