It’s time to eliminate the “excessive celebration” rule

 

I understand that I run the risk of being called a “homer” for bringing this up. This blog is based in Atlanta, Ga. The issue I am about to raise is one that negatively impacted the University of Georgia. I attended the University of Georgia. My daughter has two degrees from the University of Georgia.

 

I get all that. But you have to realize that I’m talking about the big picture here and not the winner and loser of one football game. I am raising an issue that I believe strikes at the credibility of a game that we all love.

 

I have been covering college football as a professional journalist for 32 years and, without being too dramatic here, there is a good chance that the excessive celebration call on Georgia’s A.J. Green last Saturday against LSU is the single worst officiating mistake I have seen in my three decades of covering the sport.

 

First of all, the penalty did not have to be called. I was in New York working for CBS on Saturday and because I had access to the technology, I was able to watch the play about a dozen times. Based on what I saw, there is simply nothing there that even sniffs at the word “excessive.” I’ve read the rule. I know what it says. A.J. Green couldn’t raise his arms in the air towards the crowd because too many teammates were hugging him. He looked in the direction of the crowd. He had just made one of the biggest plays of his young career. I think we can understand that a sophomore in college might just be a little excited at that particular moment.

 

After the fact the officials released a statement saying that Green had made a gesture to the crowd that brought attention to himself. If that happened then a press box full of trained observers and a crowd of over 90,000 all missed it. I asked Georgia coach Mark Richt on Sunday if he was aware of anything Green did, perhaps off-camera, that would have warranted the penalty. He said no but he also said that he had not asked Green directly about it. But if nobody saw it but the official on the play, how in the world can it be excessive?

And, for the purposes of this discussion, I’m not going to get into the other two excessive celebration calls other than to say this. The one on LSU’s Charles Scott, which came after he briefly raised his arms to the sky (exactly two seconds because I counted) after the winning touchdown, probably had to be called given the bad call on A.J. Green. And I’ll give the officials the benefit of the doubt on the Orson Charles call, although I thought Charles was trying to get the crowd fired up and not bringing attention to himself.

 

Here is the problem. It is clear that the officials are given very little, if no, discretion on this call. If a player does any gesture other than celebrating directly with his teammates, the officials feel compelled to call it. And if they don’t, they risk reprimand or even suspension.

 

I just feel the rule, which was created with the best of intentions, has morphed into something that is now hurting the game. It is called so inconsistently. Earlier this year a Florida player was flagged after a quarterback sack for simply rolling his hands like a traveling call in basketball. A little while later a Tennessee player sacked the quarterback and did several chest bumps. Nothing was called. In my opinion neither should have been called. The official on the play just tells the young man to cool it and get back to his teammates. No harm, no foul.

 

One of two things has to happen for the good of the game: My suggestion is to eliminate the rule entirely because it has become clear to me that it can’t be enforced on a consistent basis. Excessive celebration is too much in the eye of the beholder. Replace it with a taunting rule. Taunting is more clearly defined than excessive celebration.

 

Until then every supervisor of officials in the country needs to tell his guys: Let’s back off. We need to adjust the sensitivity meter on this thing. Let’s save this penalty for the most egregious violations. That isn’t hard. We know what they are.

 

 When Georgia stormed the field en masse in Jacksonville in 2007, now THAT’s excessive celebration. When a player running to the end zone takes off from the five-yard line and dives in with no defenders around, that’s excessive. When a player throat slashes with his thumb, that’s excessive.

 

When, after a great game like Georgia-LSU, Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson have to admit that the biggest play of the game was a penalty that (in my opinion) didn’t have to be called, then the rules, which are supposed to work to the good of the game, have instead worked to the detriment of the game.

 

Somebody made the argument to me yesterday and we have to put up with a bad excessive celebration call from time to time because the greater good of the game is well served by the rule. I don’t accept that. I think there is a way to keep sportsmanship in the game without totally eliminating the passion of the players, which is something that we all enjoy and, quite frankly, makes the college game much better than the pro game.

You don’t think the Georgia players aren’t going to be negatively impacted by this call for the rest of the season? You don’t think they will curb their enthusiasm because they fear the next flag might be on them? Of course they will. And that’s not right.

It’s time to put some common sense back into the excessive celebration rule.  It if we can’t do that, then it needs to be eliminated.

 

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669 comments Add your comment

Scooter

October 5th, 2009
4:53 pm

Scott would have never had the ball in his hands if they took over 15 yards further back. They wouldn’t have risked running it for no gain and running clock. So enough already with the fact that the 15 yard penalty wouldn’t have changed the outcome. The outcome might have been the same, but it wouldn’t have been on a missed tackle on Scott on an off tackle play. LSU deserved to win for sure if you look at the stats… but they didn’t deserve to win the way they did.

But it don’t matter, cause last time I checked, the score is still 20 – 13 and will always be..

BIG AL

October 5th, 2009
4:56 pm

Saban Year 1: We lose to GA 26-21 in OT
Saban Year 2: 41-30: say it with me…beeeeeeat dowwwnnnnwn.

Yeh, dont think ya’ll will host a blackout again in THIS century.

LOL

KD

October 5th, 2009
4:57 pm

JayRoot,don’t know where you saw Green walk back to the back at the end zone, maybe your TV showed something different from the nationally televised broadcast that thousands of people witnessed and was showed time & time again and the broadcasters couldn’t figure out where the celabration was. I don’t see it, you MORON !!!!!

Mike T.

October 5th, 2009
4:57 pm

The call was bad, but what lost the game is the offense waiting until after
half time to have any production.If the offense played the first half like the last, the call would have been a non issue.1 first down and less than thirty yards of total offense will catch up with you.

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:58 pm

BIG AL

PLEASE!

LSU needed 4 tunrovers a punt return and a lucky goal line stand to beat Miss St

THEN

LSU needed an ADMITTED BAD CALL to survive against UGA after the DAwgs took the lead ON THE FIELD FAIR AND SQUARE with a minute to go

LSU is frankly lucky they are not 3-2 themselves

So just stop it

Answer this question BAMA people…WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME BAMA WON ANYTHING??????????????

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
5:00 pm

BIG AL

can’t answer the question can you? When was the last time BAMA won anything?

And no matter the score it is one win a piece AND RICHT NEVER LOST to LOUISIANNA MONROE……AT HOME NO LESS LOL!!!!!

Saban has been there 3 years so yo have one or 2 more before he slithers off to the next highest bidder

SuperB

October 5th, 2009
5:02 pm

Tony is 100% correct. This one bad call cost Georgia a (3-0, 4-1) record, a place near the Top Ten and a better bowl game down the line. All this talk from Mr. Redding about angles is crap. I have officiated FB for more than 30 years and the rule is the same– don’t call what you don’t see!

Atlanta_Tiger_Fan

October 5th, 2009
5:04 pm

Both excessive celebration penalties were horrible, but to say it cost GA the game is absurd. LSU got the same penalty and kept playing the game to win.

JD

October 5th, 2009
5:04 pm

The 2005 Cutler to Earl Bennett TD in the swamp is the poster child for excessive celebration BS calls.

dgroy

October 5th, 2009
5:06 pm

There are/were mistakes made by officials in every football game ever played. You’re picking on this one because it’s the University of Georgia that an (I don’t know) incorrect call was made. You’re a journalist……act like it.

Atlanta_Tiger_Fan

October 5th, 2009
5:06 pm

SuperB

October 5th, 2009
5:02 pm

Tony is 100% correct. This one bad call cost Georgia a (3-0, 4-1) record, a place near the Top Ten and a better bowl game down the line. All this talk from Mr. Redding about angles is crap. I have officiated FB for more than 30 years and the rule is the same– don’t call what you don’t see!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Again, call did NOT cost UGA the game. They had more time on the clock after LSU scored and kicked 15 yards further back like GA did…the difference is that LSU’s special teams did their job and GA’s did not! GA fans are the biggest bunch of whiners in the entire country!

Hamad Meander

October 5th, 2009
5:07 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more Tony. I’m not a Bulldog fan – I graduated from another SEC school. I hate to see a game influenced by the judgement (or lack of judgement) call by a referee. In the context of what was happening in the game, there is no reasonable explanation for making that call at that time. It’s very much like the Serena Williams foot fault call – it’s too close to the end of the match and to close a call to call it at that time.

I would like the SEC referees to miss a call or two rather than call more than they need to call. It seems like lately, we spend more time watching the referees make calls on the field vs. the players make plays on the field. I doubt the football has gotten that much more sloppier.

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
5:08 pm

coach smith,

Interesting you’re waiting for someone else to respond when you’re conveniently ignoring your own mishaps.

Mike T.

October 5th, 2009
5:09 pm

Big Al, go 1000 miles due east, take a big gulp of water
and do us all a favor.Instaed of being on our blog you
need to get ready for Florida yourselves cause McElroy ain’t gonna beat em.

lamar

October 5th, 2009
5:09 pm

Anybody who dont know that this call changed the game is crazy! Lsu would have to drive the field throwing the ball with 1 minute left & NO TIMEOUTS & no question time would have expired before they could score! Anybody is a idiot if they dont know that GA is looked at different in the officials eyes ever since the Florida game in 2007. Yes we got the win, but we have been LOSING EVER SINCE THEN WITH THE CALLS BY THE SORRY PATHETIC REFS! I WISH I COULD SEE HIM ON THE SIDEWALK ON DAY, I WOULD SHOW HIM EXCESSIVE , EXCESSIVE BEATDOWN! WHAT A SCUMBAG!

PJ Yost

October 5th, 2009
5:09 pm

Im not a fan of UGA or LSU, I live in Maine and have connections to Ohio State so I am certainly not biased. The end of the UGA-LSU game could and should have been one of the most exciting finishes Ive seen in an NCAA game this season. A.J. Green’s catch was amazing. Then comes the penalty call. Completely unwarranted. And while LSU scored to end the game I had to ask myself if they would have been able to score if they started at their own 20-30 yard line? I know that some will say LSU’s Chad Scott running for that TD proved LSU would have won anyways, but one has to wonder about the mental state of the Georgia players after that incredibly horrible call. I think the call demoralized the Bulldogs and the touchdown run was the coup d’ gras. We’ll never know. But we all know the excessive celebration rule has to go.

Atlanta_Tiger_Fan

October 5th, 2009
5:12 pm

sb

October 5th, 2009
4:27 pm

All the proof you need is that Mark May and Lou Holtz both said it was a terrible call and that UGA got screwed. They both hate UGA and never say anything postive about UGA. Recent example Rashad Jones hit in OK State game. Both said it was a great call by the official. They were the only 2 people in the country that thought so.
+++++++++++++++++
Those guys as you mention hate UGA like the rest of the country does because you’re a bunch a whining idiots when you loose a game and blame everything under the sun except your own team and coaches.

Mike T.

October 5th, 2009
5:12 pm

GA fans are the biggest bunch of whiners in the entire country!
Yeah like Auburn fans don’t whine. I’ve been around enough of them for thirty years and heard plenty, believe me they can moan with the best of us.

Fleischman in Chattanooga

October 5th, 2009
5:12 pm

CHOO CHOO !!! Looks like the karma train visited Athens last Saturday. I take great pleasure in seeing you trash talking,drunken UGA fans suffer. Good times people!

Fleischman in Chattanooga

October 5th, 2009
5:14 pm

hey “coach smith” – I recall Alabama beating a pretty good Va Tech team the first game this year. I also recall them running the table last year in the SEC until the title game. Just the facts ma’am.. just the facts. oh yes UTAH hahahahahahahahahahah

Jefferson

October 5th, 2009
5:16 pm

Hey Coach — when’s the last time UGA won a state championship?

TrueCrimson

October 5th, 2009
5:16 pm

coach smith,

What has Bama won lately?

They won their game last Saturday. There was a missed call that gave KY a free TD when Javier Arenas was obviously pushed off by the receiver, but it didn’t really matter. You know why it didn’t matter? Because Bama outplayed the other team and won the game anydamway.

You guys got burned by a bad call, but you also played a lousy game, or it wouldn’t have mattered. Get over it. You play again next Saturday.

What has Georgia won lately?

Sorry Dogs

October 5th, 2009
5:16 pm

It was a bad call. Bad calls happen every week. Nothing to do but go forward.

You’re undefeated in the SEC East. All you have to do is beat Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vandy and you’ll get a shot at LSU or Bama in the championship.

If you’re that good…..do it. Time will tell, but I don’t like your chances. Now it’s time to put up or shut up.

ex-jock

October 5th, 2009
5:19 pm

I played D-1 football at a nationally ranked school in the 1980’s. I’m old school. I don’t like the BCS. I don’t like receivers wearing gloves, regardless of the temperature, and I don’t like excessive celebrations. that said, the only think worse than excessive celebrations, it the rule banning it. how in the name of Amos Alonzo Stagg can an official determine (in a split second) if a 18-21 year-old athlete is attempting to “draw attention to himself”? the “rules committee” or whatever you call it needs to lighten up. they made this mess and they’re asking the zebras to clean it up. it’s a dumb rule written by dumb people.

DawginLex

October 5th, 2009
5:23 pm

Anybody know if we could have punted from the 15 after the TD and penalty? I know you can after a safety but I didn’t know if we could have done it after a TD.

Butler skying one to the other 35 for a fair catch seems a lot better to me than what actually happened.

Anyone know the rule?

DawginLex

October 5th, 2009
5:25 pm

Jefferson,

1980
1981
1982
1983
1986
1987
1988
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007

RealDawg

October 5th, 2009
5:25 pm

Agree, the rule needs to be changed.

Also..we should have taken the wind in the 4th versus coming into the closed end. There was a pretty good tail wind we could have used on that kickoff.

bullwinkle

October 5th, 2009
5:26 pm

If you’re going to get rid of a stupid rule that hurts the game, get rid of the one that allows coaches to manipulate sideline timeouts in such a way that kickers attempting last-second field goals wind up having to make it twice.

They ought to have to call the timeout before the line is set.

if I were a gator I'd eat more dawg

October 5th, 2009
5:27 pm

What gets me – and I can’t seem to get you dawg fans to understand this – GA STILL HAD TO STOP LSU. Just to show the bias of the ajc – the writer of the article on the SEC officials stated: “The 15-yard penalty assessed on the ensuing kickoff, along with another five-yard penalty on Georgia for illegal formation on the kickoff, helped the Tigers start the next possession at the Bulldogs’ 38-yard line.” YEA – RIGHT – IT HELPED the Tigers start at UGA’d 38 – as if UGA’s pathetic kick-return team couldn’t stop LSU (I find it funny that LSU was able to stop UGA on their kick-return after LSU’s celebration penality). And if that were not enough, the RB for LSU would have still scored if he ran that play from LSU’s own 20.
SO GA fans – quit your gripping. There have been MANY of times that calls that were not right went your way – just look at the SC game where SC had a TD called back where the replay showed there was not a penality. So just eat your grits and shut-up.

what ever

October 5th, 2009
5:30 pm

You know people – there was another call that wasn’t made that should have been made that had LSU lost they could have legitimately complained about – Cox should have been called for a safety in the end-zone but wasn’t. That was clearly a safety – but in the feable mutted minds of the dawg fans you could admit it. LSU wins the game on that safety.

Eric C.

October 5th, 2009
5:35 pm

Tony, great article…you are right on. The folks who claim Dawg fans are whining are missing the point…it’s all about letting the players decide the game on the field. LSU may have still won…but it would have been a fairer fight.

Eric C.

October 5th, 2009
5:36 pm

Whatever – Chapas was right in the vicinity of where the ball was thrown…that was not intentional grounding.

DawginLex

October 5th, 2009
5:36 pm

whatever,

He was outside the tackle box and Chapas was right next to where the ball was thrown.

Nice try.

Sorry Dogs

October 5th, 2009
5:37 pm

It was a bad call. Big F’ing deal!

You still control your own destiny. Just beat Florida and the rest of the SEC East, then beat LSU or Bama.

Hell Utah beat Bama, why can’t Georgia?

Do that, and everyone will believe you’re a Top 5 team.

Until then, you’re a shizophrenic two loss team that could be circling the drain.

Eric C.

October 5th, 2009
5:38 pm

what ever – And even if Chapas wasn’t there…replays showed Cox had moved just outside the tackle box

Mike T.

October 5th, 2009
5:38 pm

Hey bammers,Gators,Nerds,Tigers and the rest, if ya’lls team would have had the same call,Ya’ll would be just as pissed as we are. I’ve heard fans from every one of your
asteemed insitutions whine and moan over calls that were
no where near as bad as the one against Greene.If that same play and call had happened against Notre Dame, Florida or USC, ESPN would have an hour long show showing
how bad it was and what the the NCAA need to do about it.

ReptilesRule

October 5th, 2009
5:42 pm

Man, I just love some of these dumbazz Dawg fans on here. They get all worked up and full of hate because Tebow is talked about so much. And when he’s not even relevant to the conversation, guess what they do…bring him up!!! Now how smart is that?? About as smart as a dumb Dawg…

TrueCrimson

October 5th, 2009
5:43 pm

… and Mr. College Football would write an article condemning it.

You’re right. It was a bad call.

Excuse me

October 5th, 2009
5:43 pm

The call was bad, but the call didn’t miss the tackle on Charles Scott that led toa td. UGA is undisciplined and even though it was a bad call, it directly reflects on the lack of discipline which also showed in poor tackling and the numerous other silly penalties called against UGA. This is an undisciplined team like the Phillip Fulmer teams at UT snf it’s showing out on the field. UT’s record maybe worse this year and Kiffin does run his mouth too much, but he has made this an extremely disciplined team and here are the stats to prove it: #1 in the SEC in terms of lowest amount of penalties and penalty yardage this year, highest team gpa in 4 years, and 0 arrests since LK arrived. He has booted many cancers and distractions off the team. (Demetrice Morley, Lennon Creer are the two starters that have been booted and Receiver Brandon Warren has just been suspended for the season for various TEAM offenses ie lack of effort in practice and recently being a prima donna on the sideline this past Saturday.
Richt is a good coach but when is he gonna clamp down and lay down the law with this team that has underachieved for 1 and 1/2 seasons now?
Hopefully UGA will beat UT like they should this Saturday considering the vastly better depth assembled by Richt, but then again, how many top-5 classes does it take to build a NC contender because UGA is at 7 and counting.

David Granger

October 5th, 2009
5:44 pm

I sort of agree with you, Tony…let’s get rid of the “excessive celebration” rule, and just STRICTLY enforce a rule against “taunting”.

But let’s be consistent, and call ALL of it:
When a player sacks a QB, and does that exaggerated “goose step stomp strut” down the field…
When a player knocks down a pass, and then gets in the receiver’s face waving his arms for “incomplete” and shaking his head NO NO NO…
When a player tackles a running back behind the line of scrimmage, and poses over him, refusing to move, even when the RB is trying to get up…

Why is all that NOT considered “excessive”, and “calling attention to oneself”?
Let’s call every bit of that, and take the “punk” out of college football. Just about every team nowadays acts like that damn FSU scum

Saint Simons

October 5th, 2009
5:53 pm

12 to 8!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahahahaha

Bibble

October 5th, 2009
5:53 pm

Reptile, I understand your sensitivity to the Tebow issue. He really does make a spectacle of himself every time UF has a big play (some would say a complete horse’s a$$, but I’m more charitable).

At least the refs nailed him on the “chomp” he did in the OU game. Real classy, such a humble and pious servant of the Lord, huh?

I’m sure he delivered a wonderful prayer afterward…

Saint Simons

October 5th, 2009
5:54 pm

29 to 9!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahahahahaha

Saint Simons

October 5th, 2009
5:54 pm

32 to 27!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahahahahaha

KJ

October 5th, 2009
5:59 pm

Don’t forget the gator thug that drove Knowshon into the ground, and continued to whale on him well after the play was over, and Penn Wager$ didn’t do sht. “No discretion”, my azz.

If he’s assigned to officiate any more UGA games, someone needs to send him a message… maybe he wakes up to find Lou Holtz’s prostate in his sheets.

Cry Me a River

October 5th, 2009
5:59 pm

You know, UGA could’ve kept Trindon Holliday from getting a 40 yard kickoff return shortly thereafter.

They could’ve stopped Charles Scott on an obvious running play.

And they could’ve had their own kickoff return of 40 yards after the makeup call against Charles Scott.

They did none of the above and lost. Too bad. Make the most of your circumstances.

GT For You and Me

October 5th, 2009
6:08 pm

Why are any of you pups worried about a celebration penalty? Your coach said out of his own mouth: The penalties don’t bother me. Blame the coach,not the refs!!!!!!!!!! Get your priorities straight…………… TOHWG

[...] mean quite literally everyone, from those irresponsible bloggers to indignant mainstream barkers to sober insiders to yours truly … and, as of this afternoon, the head of SEC [...]

Willie Martinez

October 5th, 2009
6:11 pm

The call did not determine the outcome of the game. My defense couldn’t make a play as usual.

Tide Rising

October 5th, 2009
6:16 pm

Coach Smith,

Take a breath and calm down. You guys lost a highly emotional game and obviously the call didn’t help. But the refs didn’t help Holliday return the ball 40 yards and they didn’t help Scott run 33 yards for a td on a play that if you added back the 15 yards it wouldn’t have made a difference.

The better team won and LSU dominated statistically. Take your lumps and move on.and quit with the whining.