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


October 6th, 2009
9:05 am

This was a horrible call. While the call did not necessarily lose the game for UGA, it definitely changed the way UGA and LSU could play the remainder of the game. Beginning with the kick-off, UGA had to kick off as deep as possible to one of the most dangerous return men in the nation; no option for a deep pooch kick, a line drive kick through the endzone, or even kicking out of bounds. If LSU has to start the drive on its side of the field, the final minute of the game is played differently.

Decatur 4 Life

October 6th, 2009
9:55 am

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the call was a bad call, the thing I don’t like is it didn’t lose them the game by any stretch. That’s something we’ll never know, they couldn’t stop LSU all 4th quarter. The call was unfortunate but so was the tackling and the play of the secondary. Although the call shouldn’t have been made, I don’t think it decided the game. Like I heard so many time before it’s about execution!

Yellow Jacket Fan

October 6th, 2009
10:09 am

To all the dumb people who claimed LSU dominated the first half and Should have been ahead in the game by a larger amount of points. Points scored, determines who wins and loses the games, not have many yards rushing or passing a team gets. By the way Georgia outplayed LSU in the second half until the final 2 minutes of the game but that don’t matter either, it is the final score that counts.


October 6th, 2009
10:59 am




Not a homer

October 6th, 2009
1:02 pm

I dont care about either team. I was watching the end of the game as an interested 3rd party because I saw a chance for yet another overrated SEC team to go down. I saw the catch Green made and the so called “excessive” celebration and there was nothing to it. The kid made an amazing catch with 1 minute left against a top 5 team. How are you not supposed to get excited about that? You would have to be a drone or play for the Atlanta Braves.

Now, you can say things evened out when they called the same nonsense on Scott, but it didnt. Had the 1st penalty not been called, GA is kicking from the 30 instead of the 15. Given that the kickoff went to the 15 you can assume it wouldve been in the end zone. That knat that LSU has running back kicks maybe gets to the 30. I dont see LSU’s sorry excuse for an offense moving the ball the necessary 45 yards to get in FG position. Scott never gets a chance to celebrate because he doesnt touch the ball as theyre throwing it all over the place hoping for a miracle. Game over.

Another SEC pretender falls by the wayside. I wouldnt be surprised if CBS had something to do with it to jack up the hype machine for LSU-FLA. Just my 2 cents…


October 6th, 2009
1:48 pm

coachsmith: I disagree. The call is the same, whether it happens on the first play of the game or the last play of the game. The effect of the call, and how the team the call went against may be different depending upon when the call occurs. But the actual “badness” of the call, which I use to refer to how gross of an error the call represents, does not change just because it happens at the end of the game.


October 6th, 2009
5:44 pm

Absolutely! Get rid of that subjective rule, and fire the official who called it in this case.

GT For You and Me

October 6th, 2009
7:46 pm

Lindsey Scott is gone and Munson doesn’t call the games anymore… Move on to Tenn. You should win,but who knows…………


October 7th, 2009
9:23 am

Reality Check, read the post. I said it LOOKS LIKE the refs are trying to change the outcome of the game. Not that they are trying to. I am not agreeing with Tony. I think the rule stays, but I don’t have a problem asking the officials to start getting it right. They get paid.


October 9th, 2009
12:38 am

From Wikipedia, the rule that all have been discussing, sometimes with “excessive ignorance”:

NCAA Football Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(1)(d) prohibits “Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)”; in addition, Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(2) asserts that “After a score or any other play, the player in possession immediately must return the ball to an official or leave it near the dead-ball spot.”[2] Additionally, if a player’s actions is considered “unsportsmanlike conduct” the result is dead-ball foul; a “flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct” foul requires player ejection. If a player’s nonfootball-related act (e.g. taunting or cursing) causes an opponent to physically retaliate, it is considered fighting and both players are ejected.[3]

The call against Greene was not the worst ever, but clearly it was a terrible call that had a direct (if incalcuable) impact on the outcome of the game. The call against Scott was also an embarrasment.

It is also apparent that other clear violations of the rule, in both letter or spirit, by players in other situations are not called. There is something seriously wrong with either the referee’s instruction or their interpretation of the rule. As it is, it is a disaster. It is painfully ironic that Vince Dooley is one of the instigators of the rule. The rule was definitely needed at the time it was implemented, so I do give Coach Dooley credit but it needs revamping NOW!!!


October 9th, 2009
12:53 am

G8TR “It’s incredible the way you people “remember” how the Gator players chomp after every play/score.” Perhaps it is you who misinterpret what people are saying. Yes he does not litterally do the “gator chomp” after every score, but he frequently individually celebrates his touchdowns or big plays, clearly worse than either Greene or Scott — look at some of the videos on youtube and see for yourself.

In response to your questioning why UGA fans remember the times we got ripped off or lost out on opportunities due to unfortunate circumstances. Of course we do; it’s human nature. We also remember the good times, but you wouldn’t notice that would you? Why? Because you are focusing on the negative too!! Duh!!!


October 9th, 2009
8:24 am

I agree with you on excessive celebration. All three of them should have been no calls. Poor judgement by officials. None of the players were drawing attention to themselves. They were excited which shouldnt be a penalty. UGA’s lack of running game, predictable play calling, and too many 3rd down and long yardage has hurt worse. Lack of offense in first half killed them.

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Get over it

January 1st, 2010
5:40 pm

watching bowl games today, and seeing this call multiple times today in various games. Why not just let the coaches deal with the unsportsmanlike issues of players if they think it is so. Why penalize a good play even if a player is a jerk? Celebration of any kind of an individual is just that, a release of emotion; and any release of emotion of a good job done is unsportsmanlike like? Give me a break. That is stupid. There should be NO kind of unsportsmanlike like calls regardless. It should be up to the coaches to deal with it. so what if a guy goes into the end zone with no one in 30 yards and decides “heck, I might as well just stop and walk in; why should I run if they aren’t here to catch me?” Is that being a poor sport or just smart and relieved to be there alone. If they guy does a great job alone, then so what? Give it all up and give it back to the coaches to deal with. I’m tired of penalties on emotions. It’s on the verge of …. communistic. It’s like government trying to control what we do in our private lives. It just don’t feel right.