Will refs target hard hitters like Afalava?

EVERYONE SAW the same thing, but individuals on the message boards had two disparate interpretations -- If you're an Oregon State fan, it was a vicious, bone jarring smack by Al Afalava, one that Husky QB Jake Locker dropped his head and leaned into and unfortunately, was injured. If you're a Washington fan, it was a cheap shot by a player who led with his helmet.

That debate will probably never be settled between the two groups but no matter what side of the fence you sit on, with new NCAA rule changes going into effect this season, that type of hit, legal or not, will be penalized.

That doesn't bode well for players like Al Afalava, who has a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in all the Pac-10.

Dave Reardon of the Star Bulletin recently penned an article about how the NCAA is going to "come down heavily on anything even resembling head-hunting" in 2008.

That means game penalties and possibly suspensions.

Surely, the majority of college football fans are all for protecting the players. Even the most sour of fans don't root for an opposing player to get injured.

But the fact is football is a violent sport. Injuries, freak accidents, broken bones, concussions and more, they will happen.

And just because it looks nasty, it doesn't mean it is illegal.

Will Afalava be singled out by Pac-10 refs as one to watch even before the season begins? Will the refs go overboard in their enforcement?

In trying to do the right thing, will a hit that formerly would have been called great, stupendous and electrifying, will it instead be called a personal foul and change the momentum and complexion of the game?

Fans have already seen an increase in personal foul penalties over the last several years on plays that prior, would not have drawn a flag. The rule change, or perhaps more accurately, the tone surrounding it and the way the refs are being "put on notice", does not bode well for a good part of what makes football great.

At least one thing to be pleased about is that the Beavers play Hawaii at home this year, which means no WAC refs.

Although, as has been well documented in the media and on message boards, the Pac-10 refs have had more than their share of head scratching calls -- and non-calls -- where the Beavs and the other teams in the Conference of Champions are concerned.


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