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

Intentional Foul » How Is This A Penalty?

October 5th, 2009
11:28 am

[...] it time for this silly, ineffective rule to be abolished, or at least severely modified? According to Tony Barnhart, it is: I just feel the rule, which was created with the best of intentions, has morphed into [...]

wildman

October 5th, 2009
11:29 am

Does anyone know where that chicken sh** ref that made the call lives. I would love to meet him in person.

Call it Like It Is

October 5th, 2009
11:29 am

I will follow my point up by saying that the call against GA was wrong.

However, that did not lose the game for GA by a long shot! Bad kickoff coverage, and the lack of their defense to stop the drive is what blew the game.

I just do not want to see another Miami maylay like a few years ago and that could have happened two years ago in Jax by what GA did on the celebration against FL.

Bottom line: Celebrate with your teammates on the sidelines.

Enough Said!

Icepack

October 5th, 2009
11:31 am

Ditch the celebrations, play on…the celebrations are BS. Regardless of team, they make football counterproductive. No discipline, it’s a coaching thing. I’d like to see all self-glorifying crap managed better in Football, it’s losing the original lustre I thought was part of the game in terms of sportsmanship. Hand the ball the the ref with dignity, head to the sideline.

roy jones

October 5th, 2009
11:31 am

Players can’t control themselves. If we didn’t have this rule, it would be like a scene from BASEketball. On a game winning TD, we might have a party in the end zone with strippers pole dancing on the goal posts.

bamafanatl

October 5th, 2009
11:33 am

All of the “excessive celebration” calls were uncalled for. We turned to the ND game right afterwards and much worse was ignored. That is the problem. I agree that college football is not about personal celebration but we don’t want the fun taken out of it. The refs look like they are trying to change the outcome of the game or punish a player they don’t like and that is just bad for the game. Taunting is entirely different.

Reality Check

October 5th, 2009
11:34 am

Would someone please show me where Tony said that he penalty cost UGA the game? No one can, because he didnt say it! He said it was a bad call and that because there is no hard rule on this type of penalty there will continue to be subjectivity causing over zealous officials to over-extend their power on a game. Read the stupid article before you post!

Gatorzone – I agree with you.

Kitster

October 5th, 2009
11:36 am

You can thank Vince Dooley for that rule. I hope that the rule is removed as well. Though, as they say – holding can almost be called on every play – sometimes it is caled, sometimes it isn’t. The point is – calls are made, and good teams have to recover from them (legit or bogus calls) and bounce back. That call didn’t give LSU the next touchdown.. Georgia had the chance to stop them and didn’t.

brandon

October 5th, 2009
11:37 am

good article.

ReptilesRule

October 5th, 2009
11:45 am

Hey, I’m glad we have the rule in place but Tony is right, it has gone too far. And there seems to be a wide interpretation of the rule itself as I have seen games where it SHOULD have been called and then games like Saturday where it definitely should have not. College football is the greatest game on earth because of the excitement,emotion and passion. Lets not take that, nor the fun out of this fabulous game we all love!!!

Rduck

October 5th, 2009
11:48 am

I too agree that the rule needs to be tweaked to let the guys celebrate with teammates in good taste, but why do you choose now to post a blog about it Tony? Their have been numerous times where games have been impacted by this rule. I can remember the Wash.-BYU game last year for one where the UW QB tossed the ball over his head after scoring a TD that could’ve tied the game. The penalty backed the PAT attempt 15 yds and the kicker missed. Stop livin’ and dyin’ with the Dawgs Tony. Your act is seriously getting OLD!!!!

Techfan53

October 5th, 2009
11:48 am

Coach Smith
I am glad you can get the fact that I am a Tech fan (hint look at my handle). However a fair one that will acknowledge great performances like Walkers back in the 80’s. Did you even watch the game?? How can you not acknowledge the fact that Georgia could not stop Scott ALL day, especially on the last drive!!! How could you miss the fact of Georgia’s inconsistency on offense. How much do you know about football??

Are you kidding me?

October 5th, 2009
11:49 am

TB, now you have Ga fans blaming holding penalties that were not called. Ga fans don’t need a leader in the NATIONAL MEDIA giving them more things to whine about. They are the most paranoid fans in the world. The whole world is out to get you because you are the most elite program?????…..Give me a friggin break and tackle somebody. LSU could have scored from 90 yards out because the Ga secondary never takes the right angle to save touchdowns–see GaTech game from last year. and no I’m not a Tech fan. I’m a football fan. QUIT WHINING!!! You didn’t tackle anybody!!! So you lost!! Grow up.

Mike

October 5th, 2009
11:50 am

I say the dawgs give the ball to the ref, and as a team walk to the sideline with their heads down everytime they score … together.

I say they make a point to boring down the game. Just walk to the ref, give him the ball, and walk to the sidelines.

Rickie

October 5th, 2009
11:51 am

Enter your comments here This was the worst call I ever seen. Period!!!

Dawg010

October 5th, 2009
11:52 am

It is unfortunate that the referees are now part of the game. The three excessive celebration calls were made by the same official. I watched him the entire play on the Scott touchdown run and the official ran into the endzone with his hand on his back pocket and the threw the flag the “instant” that Scott raised his hand. The officials are supposed to control the action not be the action.

TechCrybaby

October 5th, 2009
11:55 am

There are a rare few bad calls every season – But that one last Saturday was not what caused UGA to lose the game. They didn’t score until the last quarter, was what.

Also, you need to get off your soapbox, Tony. Respect authority. Restrict “celebrations.” Don’t open the door to the criminally insane.

GETITRIGHT

October 5th, 2009
11:58 am

Thanks to the Georgia enemies list for me of the same nonsensical
arguments they usually bring. Truth is both teams deserved to lose.
The point Tony makes is simple but gets lost in the anti Georgia screed
is that the penalty is a problem that has to be addressed.
My argument in addition is that you don’t have any cred if you argue
that the penalty was not a huge factor in the outcome. YOU ARE JUST
BEING AN IDIOT FOR THE SAKE OF BEING ONE! Some of you are wasting
your argument skills here. The president will need some fresh
propaganda material in three years. Start early and work hard.
Here your arguments will be appropiately dismissed and ridiculed.
In the meantime serious discussions are needed for a problem that
will continue to do damage if not addressed.

Earth, Wind and Fire

October 5th, 2009
11:59 am

Definitely NOT an excessive CELEBRATION. Take it from us we KNOW a celebration when we see it. Excessive or not.

coach

October 5th, 2009
12:00 pm

I am Tech fan, and i have no trouble saying the call was bogus, but so was the one on LSU, AJ Green is a stud, but UGA still missed tackle, and did not move the ball against the LSU who Miss State put up almost 400 yds in the rain last week.

Yellow Fuzz

October 5th, 2009
12:00 pm

I say any rule that gets georgia fans riled up is worth keeping.

Yellow Fuzz

October 5th, 2009
12:01 pm

I’m glad Tech has never had a bad call go against them

But SHE said...

October 5th, 2009
12:04 pm

Like, I have Yellow Fuzz! It matches my pig tails!

gdawginkalamazoo@yahoo.com

October 5th, 2009
12:04 pm

I just wish that we could play complete game with all three facets working in the same 60 minutes. O is hot, D is cold, ST luke warm or any combination of the three. Our team played hard and fought the whole game. It was a classic game. I got to see the end of the MSU-Michigan game too. It appeared that MSU outplayed UM all day long just like LSU outplayed us till the end. MSU deserved to win their game Saturday and LSU deserved to win that game. Both of those teams played a more complete game.

johnny weissmuller

October 5th, 2009
12:05 pm

ok, but was that call worse than the officials not stopping the clock at the end of the second quarter against UNC when Bay-Bay got the first down AND got out of bounds???

I didn’t hear Barnhart crying about that

JB

October 5th, 2009
12:05 pm

First, as a Georgia fan, I blame the coach’s. They ought to be coached , ESPECIALLY IN A TIGHT,CLOSE GAME, give the ball to the official and sprint OFF the FIELD. If the Official who threw that flag had a say, that’s what he would say. We have many more problems than that ref. We ARE 5 games into the season and out of the top 25. Nuff said.

DT

October 5th, 2009
12:06 pm

The Dogs just got beat…lost….so says the scoreboard…regardless of what Phat Tony has to say…..!! Get over it….learn to tackle…learn to play by the rules….score some more points….LSU had just as many bad calls but they seem to overcome it even being on the road for the 3rd time this year……

I cant wait for the next wave of excuses…when the dogs lose to UF….Auburn…..Tech…..

Whahhhhhh
Bow Wow
Wahhhhhh

Buster Meeks

October 5th, 2009
12:06 pm

Excessive celebraton 15 yd. penalty. Personal foul late hit 15yd penalty. Shouldn’t a late hit personal foul be 30 yds if a look at the crowd is 15yds.

JB

October 5th, 2009
12:07 pm

one more time:

rredding@sec.org

Head of SEC officials

Pumpdawg

October 5th, 2009
12:08 pm

How could AJ have been calling attention to himself?He had just scored the go-ahead touchdown,everybody’s attention was already on him.

GLB

October 5th, 2009
12:10 pm

So Charles Scott wouldn’t have scored if he would have started his run 15 yards farther back?? hahaha!!! You got beat, quit whining.

Jefferson

October 5th, 2009
12:11 pm

Just wait till Rogers shows up, no way they can control him. Looked to me like the D and special teams lost the game.

Keep the Rule

October 5th, 2009
12:14 pm

How about teaching the kids not to showboat. The game is not about the individual. This kind of showboating didn’t go on years ago and it doesn’t have to go on now. Coach ‘em.

ugafanatic

October 5th, 2009
12:16 pm

LSU fans you guys are a bunch of dumb sh***.You think the two penalties evened out? Whos to say Walsh wouldnt have booted that bitch out the end zone ( very rare ) and you would have to go 45-60 yds for a fg chance? Do you think you would have actually been running the ball if you were on UGAS 30 or 40? Probably not. The call was BS. It cost us the game. We didnt deserve to win the way our guys played but we also didnt deserve for the game to be taken from us.

sharecropper

October 5th, 2009
12:17 pm

Now, let me see here. The Bulldogs are going to be intimidated from going into the end zone to score a touchdown because they can’t celebrate without being penalized, and therefore they might not score and … does that about cover it? That’s idiotic, Barnhart. You’re supposed to be an adult, so act like it. I do not necessarily disagree that the celebration penalty has been misapplied — and, by the way, as a long time writer of football, as you claim to be, if only the referee sees it, that is enough; that is the rule — but don’t make silliness of it. The fact is those “celebrations” got out of hand a long time ago, and range from jumping up and down on an opponent’s logo to sprinting out into the middle of the field for camera attention after making a play, to being a boor in the end zone. Many of us in my age group had a coach who would have yanked a knot in our necks for such shenanigans. Do it today and it would solve the problem way short of referees.

blazer

October 5th, 2009
12:17 pm

Enter your comments here CALLED THE SAME ON LSU-HAD THE BALL LAST-THREW AN
INTERCEPTION-PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

`COX NOT GROUNDED THE BALL AVOIDING A SAFETY-PLEASE AGAIN-

THAT IS A STUPID RULE- WAS INSIDE THE TACKLE- HE THREW IT TO ADVOID THE SAFETY.

GACRIMSON

October 5th, 2009
12:17 pm

Enter your comments here For one thing Tony,it’s o.k to be a Homer.I’m a Bama fan, I would have been livid.And your right,its not a blown call,its a blown perception,and thats dangerous stuff.All this talk about Ga.not deserving a win is coming from twerps who never had the slobber knocked out of them for 60 minutes.It was a ugly game.And no,there is no guarantee that LSU would’nt have scored anyway.But this is the worst “type”of call,if not the worst.If your a dawg,you have to be down,but your coach does’nt teach or promote bad behavior and you know it.Your team fought hard and then were put in a real fix,real quick.

tmac

October 5th, 2009
12:18 pm

Two thoughts:
1. I agree totally with what you say, but this does nothing for UGA last Saturday. So, i say leave it in the entire year and let everyone deal with it’s stupidity.
2. Create a rule that the crowd can’t celebrate and point to the field… sounds just as dumb the other way, doesn’t it? Do you think the players don’t get just as excited as the fans on potential game winning plays?

Todd

October 5th, 2009
12:18 pm

Thank you Tony, Use some your pull to further this conversation, like naming the official and telling everyone where he lives and he’s not invited back to Sanford Stadium. Just like the clown yrs. back in Knoxville that called a TD pass in the endzone with J. Gaffney of FL putting his hands on the ball rather than catching it. It’s hard to accept and getting over an official determining the outcome of the game.

There’s a huge difference between taunting and excessive celebration.

The most incredible thing of it all is the kind of $ paid and the time and people involved in B’mham that mull this stuff over and make the decisions. And the result is the clown that threw the flag that determined the outcome of 3+ hrs. of drama and the $ paid by CBS and …… Again, it boils down to a very trained and well paid official, who’s sitting somewhere at this moment telling someone, the kid look toward the crowd people, blah, blah This is a joke!

Jay

October 5th, 2009
12:19 pm

Right when the game ended, I just KNEW Homer Barnhart would write up something to defend Uga and attack the calls. The same way he constantly picks Uga to win.

Ajc, all the non-Uga fans are tired of Barnhart pandering to the Uga fans. Its biased and repetitive.

So when the call doesn’t go Uga’s way, you want to eliminate the rule? Why didnt you call for this after the UF-UT game? Oh wait, I know…because Uga wasnt involved and it didnt cost Uga the game.

Sad.

gdawginkalamazoo

October 5th, 2009
12:19 pm

That’s not an email address. I had yahoo on my mind.

Fred

October 5th, 2009
12:21 pm

Everything I saw was bad…

ugafanatic

October 5th, 2009
12:21 pm

TECH FAN 53 ARE YOU ON CRACK? WE COULDNT STOP SCOTT ALL DAY. WHERE YOU WATCHING LAST YEARS GAME?

Muscledawg

October 5th, 2009
12:22 pm

Tony you are correct in your statement. There needs to a investigation into this crap. The ref’s are not suppose to influence the outcome of any game. The head referee should have waved this penalty off or asked what did AJ do to warrant a penalty. Just like what happened in the Arizona St. game when the player pushed the referee to stop the play!
That call has to be the worst call I have ever seen a referee make in a game! I want someone to please show me what did AJ do to get the penalty, please. He was not bringing attention to himself, heck he had just made a great catch. How can you need he happy for the play he made, he was trying to get to his sideline. Terrible CALL!!!! This Umpire crew needs to penalized or something! As for as all of these jerket fans and ls-who fans that are talking alot of crap, hear this: The penalty on scott was mute at the end. The game was bascially over because we had to score a TD whereas Ls-who needed a fg, can you count? Jerkets need to go back to their hive like they always do when things get rough and accept they are losers.
Referee’s lost this game for us, granted we could have played better but so could have ls-who.

FLEABAG MUTT'S

October 5th, 2009
12:22 pm

Remember……if you LIVE by the sword you DIE by the sword!!

Chris G

October 5th, 2009
12:23 pm

The call was bogus, but as others have already stated, the penalty did not prevent our defense from tackling Scott. He ran through our line, past our defensive backs and safeties, and took the ball to the endzone. It would not have mattered if LSU was on their own 5 yard line–if the defense allows a running back to pass through unmolested, he will take it to the endzone.

As anyone who has played football knows, everybody on the field has to play until the last whistle blows, and once again, our defense failed this test. The first 59 minutes of defense was above average considering our other defensive performances this year; the final minute was a typical Willie Martinez-inspired defensive meltdown. Oh well–Go Dawgs!!!

Jackson

October 5th, 2009
12:23 pm

HEY–I am a Big Ten Fan but was watching the game and thought the “call” absolutely stunk. Beyond lame after the game reflections from officials as to what they saw and no one else did…including the video tape–this official did something you never want to do in officiating. His poor judgement call impacted the outcome of the game…needlessly. I am with Mr. Barnhart…eliminate excessive celebration with only caveat that only the 11 players on the field can celebrate. If “throat slashing, somersaults, etc.” occur, call that taunting and throw the flag. It would have been refreshing for the officials to admit that the rule needs to be looked at etc. and not “well here is what we saw that you didn’t.”

Mitch

October 5th, 2009
12:24 pm

Let’s not forget the face mask on Georgia and the replay clearly shows L.S.U. doing the same thing on the very same play.

Great game L.S.U. good luck this season.Georgia just can’t beat the ref’s and the team their playing also.

mr bodine

October 5th, 2009
12:25 pm

Absolutely HORRIBLE call (as well as the rule in general)! When the officials inject themselves into the flow of the game, they need to be reprimanded!
Yes, the UGA offense waas awful for most of the game. Yes, LSU made the plays to win. But in college football, MOMENTUM is everything, and that official took the momentum away from UGA and gave it to LSU. UGA made the plays needed to take the lead, but then the official burst their bubble, and the D let them down after 59 minutes of outstanding play. So you don’t think momentum matters???

All you people who say it was UGA’s lack of dicipline are idiots! It is not lack of discipline to be ecstatic and want to celebrate with your team mates when the team has just taken the lead with just over a minute left. It is called enthusiasm and passion. We want that, right? What’s the matter with some of you people??

dawgfan

October 5th, 2009
12:25 pm

Someone mentioned that LSU’s Holliday caught the kickoff following the BS celebration call inside their own 15 and said it was a good kick. So, if GA’s kicker was on the 30, what happens then? With the same kick, Holliday would have been in his own endzone. Does he bring it out or take the touchback? Not trying to make excuses because GA did not play well in the first half which is all on GA. However, I think it is obvious that the penalty affected the starting position for LSU and thus their play calling on their final possesion. Big difference for offense and defense strategy in that situation.