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

Gratefuldawghead

October 5th, 2009
1:18 pm

The Refs were WORKING for the #1 Florida and #4 LSU matchup this week!

Chris

October 5th, 2009
1:18 pm

Look at the bright side you UGA idiots.

MSU played LSU tigher than ya’ll did..and deserved to win their game moreso. Maybe ya’ll would have only lost by a field goal to Mississippi St?

law dawg

October 5th, 2009
1:19 pm

no, scott would not have magically fallen down 15 yards early had that penalty not been called – that’s missing the point though. the call changed the play calling of both teams on the next drive. i doubt LSU would have been running the ball up the gut had they been pinned back on the kickoff (possibly a touchback) without those 15 yards. i doubt uga would have been crowding the line like they were if lsu was not already on the verge, if not in, field goal range down by 1.

the call changed the rest of the game, and it was uncalled for. uga still had chances to make other plays throughout the game and didn’t, and lsu might have still won without the call – but we’ll never know, and THAT’s a shame.

Wishful Thinking

October 5th, 2009
1:19 pm

Yep forgot ARK. UGA could not stop LSU on the last drive. End of story.

BubbaDaBaller

October 5th, 2009
1:20 pm

Any rule that allows the Zebra Clad Whistle Blowers to bring attention to themselves needs to be addressed…

GeorgeinBama

October 5th, 2009
1:20 pm

To the sportswriter and bloggers: quit crying, when you have 1 first down in a half, you deserve to lose. Think that refs should start calling excess celebrating on every play. Players today act like they never made a TD or sack before. Give the ball to the ref. & go to the sideline & celbrate with your teammates. Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant and others wouldn’t stand for it.

AU

October 5th, 2009
1:22 pm

Tennessee 21, Auburn 20

Nice pic Tony, you should stick to mis-picking your GA bulldog’s games.

P-Man

October 5th, 2009
1:22 pm

OK, I want to make to point out that the call impacted the game in 2 ways. First, Walsh kicked off about about 75 yards, and the ball came down around the 10, which the LSU guy returned about 50 yards. If Walsh kicks off from the 30, that ball comes down about 5 yards deep, and is probably not returned. Ist and 10 on the 20, we have a different ballgame. Second, yes, Scott could have run for 200 yards on their last play because the entire Dawg defense sold out to stop the run at the line of scrimmage, to keep LSU from getting closer to a field goal attempt. How many times have you seen a long touchdown run on 4th and short? Hundreds. Once Scott broke the initial tackle, there was no one left to stop him. If they run this play from the 48 instead of the 33 (or anywhere else on the field), UGA is playing a completey different defense, wit a different result. Was this the ONLY factor in the game? Of course not. And those of you who think that is what Dawg fans are saying are morons. The whole point is that the OFFICIALS should not determine the outcome of the game. That should be left up to the players. On a JUDGEMENT call like this, it can have a huge impact, especially on a borderline call like this one.

Roll Tide Roll

October 5th, 2009
1:24 pm

The call was bad but LSU dominated and were held back by their dumb coach. The only person who does less with more than Les Miles is Mark Richt. Get used to it.

Tony is a Homer

October 5th, 2009
1:24 pm

At least you admit to be a homer now — and a whinner. Please drop the name Mr. College Football. You are a total embarrassment.

crimson pride

October 5th, 2009
1:25 pm

like big al said, just look at those stats.

who’s the sec bottom-feeding bulldogs now.

GaryWarDamnEagle

October 5th, 2009
1:26 pm

Tony Barnhardt is nothing but a UGA apologist. Nothing more.

TrueCrimson

October 5th, 2009
1:26 pm

I don’t like this celebration rule in general and I agree that the rule was not applied properly in this particular game.

That said, Georgia clearly has a team discipline problem. I have often felt that lack of discipline has been overused by fans as an excuse for lack of talent on their football team. LSU didn’t bring that much more talent to the field in this game. They simply played harder than Georgia. Maybe the dubious penalty calls decided the final outcome, maybe they didn’t, but this game is not the only one in which Georgia has hurt themselves with their attitude and behavior on the field. This is an issue that Coach Richt needs to address. Penalties aren’t the only undesirable outcome that can result from undisciplined behavior on the field of play. Georgia gives the appearance of relying too heavily upon emotion as motivation to execute. Emotion will always be a part of the game, but it should never be counted on as the primary motivational factor.

LESD

October 5th, 2009
1:27 pm

Yes, I’m a Georgia fan, but this rule is damaging college football. I’d be saying the same thing if it had happened to Tech. LSU deserved to win. They never gave up. They made plays when they had to. No disrespect intended toward them in any way.

But it is time for a return to common sense.

Sobe

October 5th, 2009
1:28 pm

SEC West>SEC East (FL is the only team that is even legit)

lvilledawg

October 5th, 2009
1:29 pm

To those that say this call did not change the outcome of the game, you are right. This was not he determining factor for the victory, but let’s think about that for a moment. Moving the kick off back 15 yards all but eliminates the chances of a touchback. Meaning the electric Holliday would not have the chance to return the kick. Having the ball at the 20 instead of beyond the 50 not only changes the defense but the offense as well. Going 45+ yard to attempt a field goal in 1 minute is different than starting in field goal territory.

yellowjacket82

October 5th, 2009
1:29 pm

Bad call, but UGA should have lost by a couple of touchdowns. UGA is better than that…a very poor performance.

Why not just tackle Holiday and Charles Scott?

October 5th, 2009
1:29 pm

Why blame it on a single penalty and ignore tackling Holiday and Scott? Why didn’t you just stop these 2 guys?

And the crickets go Chirp! Chirp! Chirp.

274 total yards offense and u think u shoulda won?

October 5th, 2009
1:31 pm

U guys got to be kidding? LSU dominated you. End of story punks.

BigMike Said.....

October 5th, 2009
1:31 pm

I’m an Golden Gopher from Athens, grew up there a Gladiator (CCHS), have been a lifelong dog fan, but took my skills up north to play. Never in my life have I seen such a pathetic call in college football. You have grown men on Sundays celebrating after every little sack or touchdown, but you can’t let teenagers love the moment. That call, know matter what others say on this blog (and many ain’t saying crap) that changed the outcome. Anyone that knows the game, knows that was an emotional moment that is as sacred as the game itself. The call against Charles Scott was an aboration to try and balance out what was the poorest call in college football this year, and maybe ever. Tony if you would start deleting some of these morons off the blog, we could have real football discussions. These Turds that are blogging know absolutely nothing about football, and are clearly wasting time here. Great article! Whether you’re UGA or not, one must admit that will go down as one of the worst calls in college fooball ever!! P.S. you C.C. Gladiators need to get your swagga back. We played for championships not just to say we were on the team.

FloridaDawg

October 5th, 2009
1:32 pm

Whoever called the penalty on AJ Green AND the LSU player for excessive celebration should just quit.
The SPIRIT of the game WAS stolen by the ref who called the game.
All the gas, all the money spent, baby sitters looked for, beer drank…all of it and more…soen the drain because of a dumb arse call.

Exscuse makers-Insert whining and excuse here

October 5th, 2009
1:33 pm

The excuse machine is in high gear. First all of the excuses over losing by 14 to Okay state. And now this even though Holliday and Charles Scott ran wild. Unfreakingbelieavable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why didn’t you stop Scott? LSU looked like they didn’t even need those 15 yards. Are you kidding? Scott looked like he was going to run to the Atlantic ocean!

Archie

October 5th, 2009
1:36 pm

I’m not a fan of either team, but I absolutely agree that there this rule needs to be taken out of the books. I don’t buy the “serving the greater good of the game” argument either, that’s BS logic. Football is the only sport that has a rule for excessive celebration, nobody complains when Alex Ovechkin throws himself in the glass after he scores a goal, nobody complains when a Green Bay Packer lobs himself into the crowd for a Lambeau Leap. Penalties exist in football to keep people from getting hurt, nobody is getting hurt by a player celebrating. Enough already, outcomes of games are being changed because of factors that have nothing to do with players on the field. Football’s rulebook has gotten very cloudy and ambiguous in the first place, and this rule just adds one more unnecessary factor into the games.

BigMike Said.....

October 5th, 2009
1:36 pm

Sobe, Ithink like LSU won nat’l titles in 2003, and 2007, Georgia finshed # 2 in the country, and about 35% of the NFL Is from the SEC makes us legit. You Big Dummy!!

Blackberry Cobbler

October 5th, 2009
1:36 pm

Yes, the call hurt. But blame UGA for making it much worse than it had to be by sloppy @$$ kick coverage AGAIN and the additional penalty of illegal formation on the kickoff. Both just dumb-@$$ mistakes.

CB712

October 5th, 2009
1:36 pm

Enter your comments hereI do not like Florida but respect Tim Tebow and his ability, but have we ever seen a flag thrown on him for his many chest pumps and motions to the crowds after some of his runs? Just a terrible rule that truly effected the game. Totally different play calling by LSU if they have to start that drive from their own 20 with 1:00 in the game!! If they take it 80 yards and win, then they deserve the victory, but we will never know if they could have done that.

Exscuse makers-Insert whining and excuse here

October 5th, 2009
1:37 pm

Big Mike is a little sissy.

Waaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!! The worst call ever? U gots to be kidding.

Hey Sissy Mike,

Why didn’t you just shut down Trindon Holliday or Charles Scott? Answer that question tough guy. Stop them and you win the game. Why not just stop them and forget about this 15 yard nonsense. What is your freaking excuse for not stopping them? What is it BEYOTCH????????????????????????

Clean up this blog

October 5th, 2009
1:40 pm

I’m neither a UGA or a Tech fan, but this blog is full of some really bad representatives of their respective fan bases…especially from Tech fans. Gees guys….stop all of the crap and have an adult-like discussion about what the article is about instead of all of this adolescent-like ripping of one another.

Gov Clinton Tyree

October 5th, 2009
1:40 pm

I’m a Florida fan, and I’m still waiting to see something that A.J. Green did that could be construed as “excessive celebration”. May have cost the Dawgs the game.

Didn’t like the call/non-call sequence in the FL/TN game, either.

I like the taunting idea. And that’s what needs to be called, and an excessive celebration can be construed as taunting. Shame the Dawgs got called for that.

As Justice Potter Stewart might say, “I know it when I see it.” What AJ Green did – that wasn’t it.

Ed

October 5th, 2009
1:40 pm

Because of where I live I get to see a lot of Big XII games on TV and I attend an occasional Conf. USA game. There’s no doubt that SEC officials make calls that are not made in other conferences. There’s a history of this kind of thing, and it’s not just a problem with Georgia.

Although I like the result, one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen occured a few years back in a UF-Tenn. game. A Tennessee corner slapped a UF receiver’s facemask, with the referee staring right at him. The UF player retaliated with what can best be described as a girly slap, and he was the one tagged with a 15-yard penalty that ultimately gave Tennessee the chance to win the game with a long field goal.

Come to think of it, the Big XII has had it’s moments. After the Michael Crabtree TD that beat Texas, Texas Tech players and fans rushed the field thinking the game was over (the clock showed 0:01). Instead of hitting TTU with a 15 yard penalty, they were penalized back to the 7 for the kickoff. If something fluky had happened, like a kickoff out of bounds, then Texas could have lined up for a 54-yard field goal to win the game. The officials in that game could have used some restraint and common sense, assess ONE 15-yard penalty, and go from there. Common sense seems to be in short supply with the game at the moment.

BigMike Said.....

October 5th, 2009
1:41 pm

Excuse Maker, where did you play ball? No Moron State Doesn’t field a team, and your blog is unfreaking beleivable Di%k He@d !!

BigMike Said.....

October 5th, 2009
1:46 pm

Excuse Maker I’ll gaurantee your a dirt sucking homo who knows nothing about real football, but come to think of it the punks always thought they knew more than the players, Sissssssssssy!

Acworth Dawg

October 5th, 2009
1:48 pm

I think ya’ll are missing the point. The point is that this rule should be re-written. Georgia and LSU are just the latest schools to have to go throught these stuff. I don’t remember who they were playing last year to Washington QB got called for the same thing and the same amount of coverage and bad mouthing the rule went on after that call as well. If memory serves me correctly, there was a similar call against Vandy a few years back at the end of a game where they had a chance to take down Florida. SO IT HAPPENS EVERWHERE.

This game was just the latest. Did Georgia lose becuase of the call? No. Did LSU win becuase of the call? No. But why should something so judgmental be the topic of discussion?

I will say this, that call took every bit of emotion out of the team and the fans. You could feel it in the stadium just get suck out. And that should never be caused by officials. Let the kids play! And we all should remember what we were like when were 18 to 21 years old.

Stu

October 5th, 2009
1:49 pm

Effin politically-correct academic-ivory-tower BS. Bunch of wussy-bearded ultra-liberal professors lording over football. Damm penalty derived from the throat-slashing thigger move. That’s all that needed to be addressed. Now, it’s diving into the end zone. Gimme a break. Bunch of over-reaching government-like control freaks.

Randy

October 5th, 2009
1:50 pm

This was a bad call. You must know the intent of the rule to apply it correctly but the problem is the rule. We need to do one of two things.
1. Have a rule for celebration with a 5 yard penalty and a 15 yard penalty for excessive celebration. 2. Have a simple rule after TD drop the ball and go directly to sideline then celebrate all you want.

jumbeauxtiger

October 5th, 2009
1:50 pm

if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if if….

and IF Lee doesn’t throw 2 pick sixes last year our game goes in to overtime tied 38-38….yeah right

The better team won in Tiger Stadium a year ago and the better won between the hedges on Saturday.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
1:56 pm

Techfan53

Did you watch the game?

Before the 33 yard run SCOTT had 18 carries for only 61 yards

That seems like they stopped him pretty well my friend

Georgia’s Defense also had 7 sacks

Lewis Buzzard

October 5th, 2009
1:59 pm

Tony
I respect your analysyis, but if this is the single worst call you have seen in the last three decades, that smacks of favortism. Yes it was a horrible call but I have seen many as unfair as the call on Green. Do you remember the hit on Tyrod Taylor by Taylor Cooper last year to basically strip tech of a potential huge victory over Va Tech. I am sure that if you talk to any fan on the street you will get the same type rebuttal.

Bibble

October 5th, 2009
2:02 pm

Part of the problem is that no one understands why the call is made in certain situations and not in others. I don’t recall a penalty after the Green-to-Johnson catch and celebration at Auburn in ‘02. We were celebrating pretty good then, weren’t we? Tebow flaps his arms, prays, and generally draws plenty of attention to himself everytime UF scores without getting these kind of penalties. It’s arbitrary.

ReptilesRule

October 5th, 2009
2:03 pm

Am I actually seeing some UGA fans complaining about Tebow on this subject?? What in the World does Tebow have to do with that call Saturday vs LSU?? You idiots just won’t leave it alone, will you?? Well, I can tell you one thing you CAN blame on Tebow…the buttkickin’ you’re gonna get on Holloween! What a bunch of pathetic losers!

Brogen's Hero

October 5th, 2009
2:05 pm

St Simons can you ever have a comment other than a score. Somebody most have dropped your erector set on your head. Go play in the tech blogs, you loser.

tony is right

October 5th, 2009
2:06 pm

Refs are killing the game. You cant hit a QB if he is outside if the hash, you cant block a punt for fear of catching the punter’s toe nail, you cant even smile after a touch down. where does it end?

Anonymous

October 5th, 2009
2:09 pm

Id personally like to dropkick those refs in the forehead!!

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
2:09 pm

coach smith,

Ah you return, and yet no comment about where Holliday caught the ball. Shocker….

Also, check your facts before you call me a moron. 70 yds on a kick is totally reasonable. Try this math:

- Kickoff from the 30 yd. line to midfield = 20 yards
- Distance from midfield to the end zone = 50 yards

What’s 50+20? Come to think of it, don’t you guys gripe about Walsh not putting it into the endzone? How can you possibly expect him to kick it 70+ yds when that’s so unreasonable to propose?

I take it you’re no longer coaching huh?

mmmmmm tater salad

October 5th, 2009
2:10 pm

Does anyone believe the refs would have called excessive celebration on TEBOW in that scenario saturday??? HELLLLS NO

Jim

October 5th, 2009
2:13 pm

Tony, I agree it was a bad call, but it was not the worst. That was the TD call for Florida in Neyland Stadium you referenced 2-3 weeks ago. It more directly impacted the game outcome and it was equally egregious.

Saturday, GA could have played better defense to save that game. TN had no recourse.

GeorgiaDave

October 5th, 2009
2:14 pm

Worst call in 30 years? Not even the worst call this season. Worst call was in the IN/MI game where they gave the MI defense the ball on a simultaneous catch. However, it was a bad call and anyone who watched the Auburn/TN game saw worse infractions that were not called.

icedawg

October 5th, 2009
2:14 pm

I disagree. I think that the whole thing is childish, that the practice is tolerated in the professional ranks. Guys go beserk for making a play, a tackle, a touchdown, an interception. Hey, they’re only doing what they have been paid to do. Why the celebration? They’re only doing what is expected of them. Team celebration used to be allowed. It was only when it became a spectacle that those who supervise conduct on the field thought that it had gone too far. But in our age of tolerating everything, including bad behaviour, it is not surprising that some just don’t care.

ugafanatic

October 5th, 2009
2:16 pm

BAMA STAN…. Alabama and Georgia tech s programs have passed ours? I did some reasearch 3 out of your last 5 seasons you won 6 games! 6. The last time UGA won 6 games or less was 1996.UGA 6 out of the last 7 years we have had 10 wins or more, Ala 3 times. And 4 of your last 7 years you were 6-7, 6-7, 6-6, and 4-9. When was the last time you won the sec? Uga doesnt lose to teams like lousiana monroe and some of the other shi% teams you have lost to. TECH do I even need to speak about you. I dont even want to waste my time looking up a program that has beat us 1 time in 8 years and thinks they are awesome. You guys suck, I would rather eat shi% than watch option right option left. WIN the ACC then talk.

Tide Rising

October 5th, 2009
2:18 pm

Reptiles Rule,

I kinda wondered where the Tebow bashing came from myself but it looks like not one but several people morphed from one bad call to Tebow bashing.

I think everyone agrees it was a bad call but to blame the loss on this one penalty is nothing short of absurd. As the jerk up there somewhere posted the dawgs still had chances to stop Trindon Holliday, Charles Scott, etc.

Somehow the fact that the dogs couldn’t stop these guys gets lost in the one bad call. Charles looked like he had another 5 yards if not a lot more so if LSU had never gotten the 15 yard benefit then what does this all matter anyway? Scott would have either scored or at worst LSU would have been in position for a chip shot of a field goal.

I’m amazed that the dawgs think this one call is the whole reason they lost. It seemed to me that LSU was just flat out better and they pushed Georgia around the whole day. The game really shouldn’t have even been close. This is from a Tide fan of course who picked Georgia to win by 2 scores.