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.

 

 Please follow me on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/MrCFB

669 comments Add your comment

calvin

October 5th, 2009
10:51 am

It’s really about ‘political correctness’. It’s girly men
who make rules about ‘excessive celebration’, handshakes
before the game, and all that rot. If these rule-makers
continue to have their way, within a few decades we will
have touch football only, and enforced equal participation
by women.

GSU Eagle 91

October 5th, 2009
10:51 am

A lot of passion here… As there should be! It was a bad call, but UGA still should have stopped LSU after they had done so for virtually the whole game… Just take it out on UT, and look ahead to the rest of your season.
For the touchdown makers, here is some advice.. Take a look at Herschel, and Barry Sanders…They simply gave the ball back to the officials, and went back to their sidelines…And got ready for their next carry.

billytdoogan

October 5th, 2009
10:51 am

If uga had tried to do more than run up the middle with crappy RB’s the first 3 1/2 quarters, maybe they would have scored more and the penalty would not have been a big deal. even with the penalty, UGA special teams (thanks again Jon Fabris) was a huge letdown. First, in allowing a 40+ yard return, then getting an illegal shift penalty called on running a kickoff they have never run before. Great Job Coaches. You blew another game.

joe joe

October 5th, 2009
10:53 am

I was pulling for LSU & I agree totally. Neither of those flags should have been thrown. I look at the big picture & the refs shouldn’t be throwing flags for doing that. Unless the player is showing up the opponent in his face there is no need for a flag.

All I'm Saying Is...

October 5th, 2009
10:53 am

Tony, you are right: BAD CALL which changed the complexion of the game and impacted the outcome, although UGA did not lose because of it. And the make-up call against LSU was a lousy call too.

OFFICIALS SHOULD NEVER DIRECTLY IMPACT THE OUTCOME OF A GAME, NO MATTER WHAT THE SPORT.

Unfortunately, college officials have very little discretion with this rule as currently defined. Need to keep it but re-write it.

La Jolla Dawg

October 5th, 2009
10:55 am

I don’t think the timing of this article makes Tony look like a homer at all–ESPN, CBS, SI.com all commented on this particularly bad call. I think UGA deserves an apology. I also think David Hale makes some great points on his blog about how UGA tends to whiff kickoffs that occur right after big plays. http://ugadogsblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/kickoff-conundrum-two-years-of-momentum.html

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
10:55 am

Mutt Nonsense

Sorry but you are wrong. Go to CBS.com or Comcast On Demand and watch it. He did not catch the ball at the 15. I’ve watched it multiple times

From 15 to 15 really? LOL that would be a 70+ yard kick. If our kicker could do that the normal kickoffs would be out of the endzone

Why don’t you just admit that you are either a LSU fan who is trying to defend the GIFT “win” they got OR you are a TECH fan who is enjoying the fact that UGA lost a game

JB

October 5th, 2009
10:55 am

one more time…………………………………..rredding@sec.org……………………head of SEC officiating

JB

October 5th, 2009
10:56 am

leave off the time and dots….it’s

rredding@sec.org

JB

October 5th, 2009
10:57 am

Just beat Tech and it will be a great Christmas………………

Denver Dog

October 5th, 2009
10:58 am

Ok Otto, Adams and Evans need to do the work that they need to do. Our coaches need to do what they need to do. That is all I’m saying. Have you written to the SEC or NCAA with those facts. You should.

GO DOGS

Big Al

October 5th, 2009
11:00 am

I agree the call should not have been made I just wonder why you did not write the article on the rule until the DAWGS were part of the issue. I also heard during the telecast that Coach Richt doesn’t mind the penatlies— doesn’t want blunt their aggression—- so they will continue to lead the nation with flags so why not write an article on that subject.

ugablows

October 5th, 2009
11:01 am

more payback/kharma for the idiotic whole-team endzone celebration that richt orchestated a couple of years ago….yall deserve it and will keep on deserving it…..choke on it b*tches

Joe M

October 5th, 2009
11:01 am

It is very simple. Cover the freaking kickoff, tackle the freaking returner and none of this is more than a little talk.

COVER THE KICKOFF!

Not to mention the piss-poor offense for 3 & 1/2 quarters and the bend-but-don’t-break defense that bent-&-broke on the final 2 drives. Spend all day mixing coverages and blitzing a little then throw it all out the window.

oleballfan

October 5th, 2009
11:03 am

Who was the official who called the Excessive Celebration penalty on Green? Get his name. He should be called out. No matter what the bozo’s say about dawgs should of done this and should have done that. The Call affected the outcome of the game. And it was a Game Changer. Maybe LSU still would have won. I don’t know and you don’t know. The official wrongly inserted himself into the outcome of the game. These types of calls are ruining the best sport in the country. The rules need to be change and clearly defined, or else interest in the game will wane. Also, nearly every (50%?) time a run back on a punt, KO there is a blocking in the back penalty, which is very frustrating. This is another penalty that needs to be changed and clarified. Wonder why the games last 4 hrs. All the dang penalties, reviews, a beautiful sport is being ruined because the rules stink.

Stephen

October 5th, 2009
11:03 am

The absolute worse you have ever seen? Worse than Colorado getting 5 downs at the goal line to win a national title? Boy, you dont watch too much college football for being an “expert”.

TheItalianDawg

October 5th, 2009
11:04 am

That was a big time Bull $hit call! I did not see any thing excessive about it. but also Bobo made Chavis look a genius with his terrible play calling. by now Bobo should know that Chavis is all about just determined to stop the run when he plays Georgia so he suppose to be more creative. Cox was terrible as well if he had completed some of his passes he would have helped the run. anyway it was on the coaches shoulder and Im now sick of watching and going to any game

AlabamaRamblinwreck

October 5th, 2009
11:05 am

I always want UGA to lose, BUT the call was stupid. We had a similar call on Josh Nesbitt for saluting the GT students after a touchdown. This is beyond ludicrous. Why not let the kids acknowledge the fans?

Go Jackets!!

ugablows

October 5th, 2009
11:05 am

that lsu running back still would have scored the winning touchdown, just would have been a 15 yard longer run

worst fans in the world, yall deserve it….hope UT beats the bejesus out of you

Larry

October 5th, 2009
11:07 am

Gosh so many of you have your priorities so messed up. Do you even know what’s going on in the world right now?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6860616.ece

ugablows

October 5th, 2009
11:07 am

watched some of the AU/UT game….i believe that AU might very well score 50+ on willie’s boys

Atlanta Gator

October 5th, 2009
11:08 am

The NCAA should NOT eliminate the excessive celebration penalty from the college football rule book. Instead, the rules committee needs to tighten the rule by providing better guidance to the referees. Clear violations of the rule should be called as penatlies; marginal violations are better ignored, regardless of whether the particular minor violation is a game-changer or not.

Let’s remember why the rule adopted in the first place—-it was an answer to the elaborate pre-rehearsed and choreographed end zone celebrations that began in the NFL in the 1980s and were imitated by college players. End zone dances and other rehearsed scoring celebrations should continue to be banned, as should taunting of opposing players and fans, and any type of tossing of the ball into the stands, etc. If the players can’t live within those boundaries, then a penalty is appropriate.

College football is a game of emotions, and the players should be permitted unrehearsed and spontaneous releases of that emotion, but any behavior that is overtly unsportsmanlike should remain banned. Period.

johnny weissmuller

October 5th, 2009
11:08 am

Tony Barnhart – You never cease to amaze me.

Now you say the excessive celebration call was the “single worst officiating mistake I have seen in my three decades of covering the sport”

Well where the heck were you when in the end of the 2nd qtr in the GT v UNC game the officials did not stop the clock when Thomas picked up the first down AND got out of bounds which prevented GT from having atleast another 2 plays?? Where were you then claiming that the officials had made the “worst mistake” you had ever seen?

You are the epitome of a homer – You are not a journalist, you are a UGA fan….and that’s fine, but don’t claim for one second to even be SOMEWHAT impartial and fair.

You never give credit where it’s due and even when it is clear that LSU was just the better team, you won’t say it. Now had GT lost to LSU in the EXACT same fashion, you would be calling into question Coach Johnson’s offense, etc

Barnhart = Homer, non-imparital journalist, who is purely a UGA fan

Ralph

October 5th, 2009
11:10 am

Sorry, but there is a large body of football fans who don’t agree with “celebrations” which started and escalated from the NFL. Last year it was diving into the end zone. Enough of this conceited trash. It’s time again for athletes to act like they have done such feats before and will do them again, instead of acting like each good performance is the pinnacle of their career.

And the new rule enforcement has been well known to coaches and players just like the ignored diving into the endzone rule. It is the coach’s fault for putting up with infractions on and off the field. You’d think coaches would be incensed when single players put their actions and self aggrandizement above the good of the team.

Oh wait. Some do. Richt doesn’t.

Rduck

October 5th, 2009
11:12 am

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get a job for the UGA newsletter Tony. You are really getting old!

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
11:12 am

coach smith,

Interesting that you’ve “watched it multiple times” but won’t comment on what you saw? Gee I wonder why that is.

I think I’ve figure it out. You’re right. I was wrong. He didn’t catch it on the 15, he caught it at the 17.

http://msn.foxsports.com/cfb/story/10167750/Holliday%27s-return-sets-up-Tigers-win-***-College-football%27s-fastest-player-beats-the-field-again-

http://www.2theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/63461157.html

Whine and Cheese

October 5th, 2009
11:13 am

What a bunch of babies.

Winners find a way to win.
Losers cry and complain about the referees.

ladyluckjc

October 5th, 2009
11:13 am

does anyone else out there get tired of Zeier complaining about officials? I’ve probably listened to 10-15 minutes a game on the radio and he has done it every single time.

quaildawg

October 5th, 2009
11:13 am

So why isn’t Tebow ever penalized for his excessive demonstration???? Just wondering.
BTW-I believe the BacK Judge was the one who called both ECP’s against UGA. Not sure on the LSU penalty. (which I agree seemed to be a CYA call)

lost in atlanta

October 5th, 2009
11:13 am

Isn’t if funny how a 15 yard penalty can be called the biggest play of the game, but the ensuing 40 yard kickoff return is ignored. Yes, the rule is a bit over-called, but please don’t be that guy who suggests that the penalty dictated the outcome. LSU dominated Georgia for most of the game and made big plays when they had to. That’s why they won.

T-Bone

October 5th, 2009
11:14 am

Here’a a solution. Make it a fine for excessive celebration, not a penalty. Penalities should be thrown for breaking the rules of the game itself, like offsides, holding, etc. These are things that are game-related. If a ref thinks that too much high-fiving has taken place, then he can “penalize” the coach or the school, but not the game.

Bystander

October 5th, 2009
11:14 am

Enter your comments here
One cannot help but think that qualifying one’s background is, at best, an attempt at objectivity. However, having read TB’s writings over the years, prove otherwise. Where was the same type attitude when that team to the west had a similar situation; a game decided by the same penalty against Tennessee in O/T no less. And in that contest, a similar penalty was NOT put on the other team to “somewhat even it out…” I understand a fan’s disappointment, but to try and cloak it as TB has justs screams Homer, in spite of his best effort. Rules are rules and UGA (with Richt in charge) just simply does not see the need to play within them as was stated on national TV during this game. How fitting is that? Just one college football fan’s opinion.

TommyJack

October 5th, 2009
11:14 am

As a TN fan, I have always respected TB’s objectivity. Still do. The dawgs got hosed about as bad as I’ve ever seen. Fans don’t pay to see officials. IF, big IF, the officials followed the rule, then the rule needs to be changed. GBO

Otto

October 5th, 2009
11:16 am

MurfDawg, Sorry I copied the quote and link down but could not get it to lad and give you credit. I did get the link to load now:

http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/moore/entries/2008/10/15/florida_celebration_backfiring.html

Yes, I think Slive should get involved. IMO it is becoming clear UGA is getting more than their share of bad calls. It is Slive’s job to be sure the SEC as a whole and each team are treated equally.

Denver Dog, No I have not but I should. I agree the coaches need to do their jobs and control our end as best they can. It also my opinion that what AJ did was not considered a penalty in the past and thus not something the coaches would have focused on. After Rashad had his hit in Stillwater I have noticed he let up when fans cheered him to hit the other player. Hopefully this is due to the coaching staff taking action. New things pop up every game and this was not something the coaches should have been worried about. Yes I have put blame on the staff for other problems Obviously the coaching staff should make it clear that this should not happen again.

I do agree that the rule is sucking the life and fun out of the game as a whole. The Washington? call costing them the game last year was bogus too.

Lance

October 5th, 2009
11:17 am

Ga Tenn is a pickem. I pick the Vowels.

B. Scott

October 5th, 2009
11:20 am

That was the single worst call I have ever seen in all of my years of watching football. It is a STUPID rule and should be changed and the official that called it should never be allowed to officiate another football game EVER!

Call it Like It Is

October 5th, 2009
11:21 am

I wish the Pros would adapt the penality as I do not want to see the “ME, ME, ME, look what I done” BS. Go to the sidelines and do the Icky Shuffle, but to me any celebration on the field is BAD SPORTSMANSHIP & TAUNTING which can prevoke fighting on the field and in the stands as I view this as an in your face manuver.

Enough Said!

BIG AL

October 5th, 2009
11:21 am

Looks like the REAL bulldog team this year is in Starkville.

Miss State (Offense) vs. LSU
374 yds total offense
223 yds rushing
151 yds passing
21 1st Downs

UGA (Offense) vs. LSU
274 yds total offense
45 yds rusing (thats not a typo)
229 yds passing
11 1st Downs

LSU (Offense) vs. Miss State
263 yds total offense
30 yds rushing (thats not a typo either)
233 yds passing
12 1st downs

LSU (Offense) vs. UGA
368 yds total offense
156 yds rushing
212 yds passing
19 1st downs

And, despite 4 TOs, Miss State still had a chance to win at the LSU goal line.

Whine all you want about the penalty UGA fans, but looking at the stats, UGA team performance looks like TOTAL CRAP !!

Are you kidding me?

October 5th, 2009
11:22 am

Enter your comments here
Ok, bad call yes. But Georgia didn’t cover on the kickoff and didn’t tackle anybody–ANYBODY–after that. it was a bad call, but Georgia lost the game, not the officials.

You’re right Tony, you let your homegrown roots show and you usually don’t. Georgia’s defense was terrible in the final minutes–THAT’S WHY THEY LOST THE GAME.

Randy

October 5th, 2009
11:24 am

Tony shouldn’t be allowed to cover uga. he needs to be working for some paper up north or out west. he’s not thinking at all. to call that the worst call shows this. i’ve seen calls that were 100 x worse. this isn’t even that questionable. the players stayed in the end zone jumping around smacking each other for a good 20-30 seconds AFTER the score. that IS excessive. and this call did not keep a drive alive. those are the calls that are much worse. phamtom holdings to bring a big play back, no touch pass int which you see every week. push offs with no call for a catch. green had a couple. those have a much bigger outcome on games. and to say some celebration pentalty was the wrost ever? give me a big time what the f ever break. it’s no where near the worst. and ga had more time left than lsu did when they had the ball. ga didn’t tackle. simple as that. quit making excuses tony and you really need to work somewhere else. your one sided biased opinion is a joke and not good for cbs.

Hugh Howard

October 5th, 2009
11:24 am

I have been attending GA football games regularly since I started as a student in 1966 and have been. I have attended all but a hand full of home games in all these years. I have never seen anything as bad as that call on AJ Green Saturday. Do we win without the call? I don’t know, LSU is a strong team. Without the call the game is decided by the players instead of the officials. Officials are supposed to keep the game under control, not control it.

The AJ Gren call is not the only poor call. Prior to that a GA receiver caught a ball and waved his fist in a circular motion toward the West end zone. This also drew a penalty. However, a play or two prior to that LSU broke up a pass on a good play. The LSU player goose steppe a majoreet type exaggerated run alll the way into our backfield. No call by the officials although he ran by several. This penalty is to subjective. It is obvious the officiating crew made a mistake. They had to issue a statement explaining the call. Thses guys were a horrible crew anyway. They could not see the team in white holding or grabbibg receivers.

Gatorzone

October 5th, 2009
11:25 am

AC, I saw the same dancing during the Az.state game. It reminded me of the Soulja Boy crap. This is their MO, and that is why close calls are going against UGA.

quit_whinen

October 5th, 2009
11:25 am

its all about taunting anyway. forget the rule changes. learn to celebrate on the sidelines.

ladyluckjc

October 5th, 2009
11:26 am

toe meets leather, good point. worst call in 30 yrs? gotta be kidding. TB, would have been a good article except for your excessive homerism shining through by making such an ascenine claim. i’d have to go with 5 downs for CU over that one. or for homerism sake, jasper sanks fumble on the goal line against Tech while laying on the ground would have to take the cake! Right?

gregdog

October 5th, 2009
11:26 am

all of you people saying UGA should have stopped lsu from scoring after the penalty…you’re right. Fabris shoud resign now!! UGA’s ko coverage is awful and has been for a while. Now as far as Scott’s td run…go find a video of that play and watch it. Curran was blocked in the back on the play (that’s why he couldn’t tackle Scott) by Hebert, there was a hold on the line, and our safety was almost beheaded by an lsu player…all on the same play…but no call. Move that play 10-15 yards further back (now LOS is on the 50) and let’s see what happens. I agree with Brando. Something stinks to high heaven with these refs in the SEC.
All of that said, UGA should be good enough and disiplined enough to overcome those things. I hope CMR does a long, hard look at all coaches at the end of the year.

Snellville fan

October 5th, 2009
11:27 am

The rule goes back to the U and its celebrations. The rule is simple you can hugh all you want as long as you do not face the stands in the end zone. The way around is to run to the sidelines and face the fans behind your home bench.

The coaching staff is responsible for their players to know the rules and abide by them. Georgia got the ensuing kickoff from the 15 as well, just did not execute. As usual Georgia did not know how to react.

BIG AL

October 5th, 2009
11:27 am

Also, even with 5 TOs, Miss State had big offensive stats
agaisnt G-Tech.

Without the 5 TOs, Miss State probably beats G-Tech too.

Bulldogs are “rising in the West” and “setting in the East.”

Dawg85

October 5th, 2009
11:27 am

It was a bad call. So was the one against LSU. It might not have changed the outcome but it did change the game. Georgia gets called tighter than any other SEC team. Damon Evans needs to have a sit down with Mike Slive and talk about it. If what AJ and Charles and Scott did are excessive why doesn’t Tebow get a bunch of these every game? Be consistent.

Now the worst call of all time was in 1999 when Japer Sanks was down against Tech and a Tech player picked up the ball and the officials ruled it a fumble — with an official right there looking at the play. Cost Georgia the game. Cost some of those officials their jobs if I remember correctly.

Dawg '88

October 5th, 2009
11:27 am

What will happen the next time Tim Tebow raises his arms and gestures to the crowd. I’ll tell you….no penalty…but tons of praise for being passionate and a team leader. I am tired of different rules for different players. That’s what really stinks here, Tony! Tebow has done the same thing a thousand times and nothing but praise is heaped on him. Disgusting.

Bored of the Go-Dawg Nation

October 5th, 2009
11:28 am

UGAy is forever on the celebration watch list due to that juvenile stunt against Florida of 07. If you are looking for a place to lay blame for this loss…maybe try tackling.