For the second week in a row the Southeastern Conference suspended a player for what it considers to be a “flagrant and dangerous” hit against a defenseless opponent.
This time, though, the league didn’t punish a relatively anonymous player from one of the league’s second-tier teams. D.J. Swearinger, a senior safety for No. 7 South Carolina, will sit out his team’s game vs. Missouri Saturday after the SEC determined his hit on UAB’s Patrick Hearn violated rule Rule 9-1-4.
That rule states: “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.”
No doubt the ruling will inspire some hand-wringing from Internet tough guys who believe these kind of rulings soften an inherently violent game. But take a look at the video above and it’s clear the suspension is justified because Swearinger launched into Hearn with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit.
You can make a case that Elston’s suspension wasn’t warranted because the receiver saw the hit coming and there was no helmet-to-helmet contact (Elston wasn’t even penalized by refs). But Swearinger’s hit is the kind of play that can result in serious injury (Hearn, fortunately, was OK) and the SEC is right to regulate it.
This is at least one case in which college football administrators are actually looking out for the interests of players. Or, if you want to be cynical about it (which is always encouraged), it’s a smart effort by the NCAA to limit its liability and the subsequent bad press that follows debilitating injuries caused by dangerous plays.
“These rules are for the protection of the health and safety of our players on both sides of the ball,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement. “It is imperative that our student-athletes understand the importance of this rule. Our motivation in making these decisions is to protect our student-athletes.”