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

STRETCH

October 5th, 2009
3:51 pm

BAMA STAN,

I couldnt have said it any better. That penalty on AJ Green didnt put them under, the coaching/play calling and the defensive players and play calling(every game they seem to be out of place) at the end of the game did.

They didnt score until the 4th quarter and couldnt cover a kick return, stop a slow quarterback from gaining a chunk of yards in the final minute, or make 1 or 2 tackles that last drive!

And Joe Cox is either pretty good or totally awful…its “either or” with him. So as he goes, the “Bullthugs” go. So its looking like an 8 win season and thats as realistic as your utility bills coming on time each month!

And the only reason they are in most of their games is because of talented athletes but these guys continue to do Boneheaded things game in and game out. Prime example, last year when BAMA came to Athens and played they way they were coached to play. BOOM…they hit the dogs in the mouth from the start, they never knew what hit them. GAME OVER in the first half.

Eventhough im a big UGA fan, ANY fan with common sense can see that CMR has NO control of those “Bullthugs!”

And as long as this team is coached the way it currently is, they will continue to be 10-2 and 9-3 and coming up short, just behind UF, LSU and BAMA!!!

Buzz Belle

October 5th, 2009
3:52 pm

One first down in the first half OR one bad call from a ref? Which one do you think really caused UGA to lose this game? LSU got the same call. As far as I could see, there should have been an intentional grounding call on Cox – he got lucky because where he happened to throw the ball, a receiver was close by. If you look at the play closely though, he was on his way to the ground when the ball left his hand. You got away with one, not the other. I understand your mad, you lost. But to throw a rule out because you don’t like it? How about throw out the rule that states the clock continues to run when you just made a 1st down to reset the chains? Let the clock keep ticking – they did at the Tech game. Let’s just throw out all the rules we don’t like and then play ball. Come on fans. Man up, accept you lost and move on to next week. If you don’t, the Vols will have a hey day with you guys!

gdawginkalamazoo

October 5th, 2009
3:53 pm

One thing I don’t understand with a lot of you UGA bashers is the fact that a win over UGA means so much to you guys. Or if we get beat it is just so important for you to be on here informing us why we lost and why we will never win another game this year or next year or ever. If we are so middle of the road, 5th best team blah blah blah in the conference, going nowhere program, why is it so important for you guys to be on here berating such a lowly program? You should probably be somewhere berating or smack talking the opponents that truly concern you. Or are you done with Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vandy and now looking to waste more time with UGA. If we are such a bad team why are you spending so much time on us?????? Why do you jump so high in the rankings when you manage to beat us? Your overwhelming concerns about our program are unexplainable.

BAMADAWG

October 5th, 2009
3:55 pm

D_MAN, Go ahead & tell the seniors that there last year isn’t important.I’m sure the recruits
that might want to come & play here can find somewhere else to play.It’s not over for this team.
Fla. is the only team on the scheldule that may seem out of reach but I still want count these guys
out of that game either.

steve

October 5th, 2009
3:56 pm

The LSU player scored on a break away run. He would have scored from 60 yards away. The penalty didn’t make a difference.

Tim Rupert

October 5th, 2009
3:57 pm

Am I the only fan that saw the reverse angle of scott’s td run, that showed a LSU player first grab Rennie Curran’s jersey and then tackle him from behind. (resulted in the best running play of the game), Boy that Scott really can break a tackle.

I point this out not to cry that Ga would have won if it had been called but to point out that it was VERY Obvious. Not only did the ref make up a celebration penalty they missed a flagerant face mask penalty and the tackling of the SEC’s best LB all with in the last five minutes, (What had LSU accomplished before the last five minutes, not enough.

The SEC officals need to be held accountable, say what you say about ga whining but it is obvious that Ga is playing up hill with these officals.
It has been reported that the head of SEC officals is a tech grad, not saying he is bias but if you were a Ala fan would you want a Aub grad as head official?

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
3:57 pm

Enough with the BAMA CRAP!!!!

BAMA hasn’t won ANYTHING IN YEARS!!!!!!!

Please let them win something before speaking

Gatorzone

October 5th, 2009
3:59 pm

Zoo, coach smith and all Bulldawg fans…
You guys played a hard fought game and could have easily won. UGA has a fine program and a team that is rebuilding. Cox is more inconsistent than most would have expected. Ealey looks like the next big thing, and I suspect the rest of the season will play out better than expected.
There is no reason UGA should not finish 9-3 beating Auburn and Tech.

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
4:02 pm

senoiadawgs,

Good post. I agree w/ almost all of it. One of the more reasonable, even-handed posts from a Dawg fan today.

coach smith,

You’re humorous. Please continue to change the subject whenever you get called out for your nonsense. You make Lou Holtz look like a Rhodes scholar. You know, the guys that get free rides to the college of their choice if they know a lot about furniture.

Andy

October 5th, 2009
4:04 pm

Hi Tony, I totally agree with you. This is a great column you wrote and I hope the powers that be take a serious look at what they’ve done. It’s so egregiously bad that the players now have to walk on egg shells when they score a touchdown, and you’re right I’m afraid this will impact Georgia’s intensity and passion now for the rest of the season.

Jacket Racket

October 5th, 2009
4:05 pm

these useless calls are just a symptom of how pansy-fied our country has become when players (college kids!) are not allowed to celebrate after a HUGE play. Celebrate, not taunt. I think most can draw a pretty solid line between the two… god forbid that someones feelings get hurt though because someones hand goes in the air

gdawginkalamazoo

October 5th, 2009
4:05 pm

Gatorzone, thanks. What happened to 10-2 possibility? Personally I thought it was a great SEC game. No matter who you are a fan of. Exciting until the last seconds.

CharlotteGator

October 5th, 2009
4:06 pm

Wow. Lot’s of activity today. Here’s to hoping we can talk about something else tomorrow.

One of the more exciting weekends of matchups is coming up with some really interesting games. I for one will be glued to the set for Bama-Ole Miss, UGA-UT, and UF-LSU. A lot will be determined this weekend and a couple teams have a great opportunity to catch a hot streak going into the meat of the SEC schedule. Couldn’t ask for a better Saturday. Here’s to 11 straight hours of football.

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:10 pm

Mutt Nonsense

what in the world did i change the subject on

Say what you want, I have a feeling you are wearing your Tech colors safely behind your computer

And my how TECH fans have came out of the woodwork

Don’t worry, after they lose the next 2 to FlaSt and VaTech, we won’t hear from them for a while

Dawg Fan

October 5th, 2009
4:12 pm

I agree that the excessive celebration rule is too strict and sever, however, that game Saturday could’ve easily been won by UGA if they were better coached and didn’t commit so many penalties. Excessive penalties, sloppy play, poor special teams and struggling to get players on and off the field are all signs of a poorly coached team. Mark Richt looks to be on the downhill side of his coaching career unless he gets serious and makes the serious decisions that his 4 million per year salary requires and fires the incompetent assistants such as his very close friend Willie Martinez.

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:14 pm

Just remember BOTH of UGA’s losses came to teams who were Ranked inthe top 5

If UGA had been like every other SEC team (except TENN & BAMA although they played one) Saturday would have been UGA’s first loss because they would’ve played 2 cupcakes and been 4-1 and nobody would be running their mouth

Rick

October 5th, 2009
4:15 pm

Yep, lots of ifs in my post…because that ref altered the course of the game by throwing that flag. And anyone who is saying that Richt is not controlling his players and they “thugs” just haven’t been watching. I believe the defense especially has done an outstanding job of curtailing the dumb late hit penalties. I remember at least two plays in the LSU game where the UGA safety could’ve laid out the receiver, but didn’t because it would’ve been a borderline play. In my mind, that aspect of the game has been cleaned up quite well. Now, the kick coverage issue is just something that should not be a problem game after game, year after year. I watch a lot of football and can’t think of another team, SEC or not, that has as big a problem covering kicks as Georgia. It’s gotten so bad that I actually thought about trying an onside kick when we were kicking off from the 15. Of course, that would’ve been pretty stupid, but hindsight being 20/20….

chesterar

October 5th, 2009
4:16 pm

“It is clear that the officials are given very little, if no, discretion on this call.”

Mr Barnhart, you better get with Tim Brando because he’s on tv saying the refs have WIDE latitude and discretion on those kinds of calls. Also, talk to Timmy about his subtle allusions to racism being involved in his post game rant with Tillman and Horowitz.

Fla Tide

October 5th, 2009
4:17 pm

Tebow does that mess every Saturday for over 3 years now…..really?

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
4:18 pm

coach smith,

Let’s try this again. These are from some of your posts earlier where you called me an idiot.

“All LSU needed was field goal. By kick from the 15 yard line they only had to go a few yards to get that field goal

Holliday caught the ball on the LSU 31 yard line, returned it 27 yards (not bad for kickoff coverage) to the UGA 42 and then they added a 5 yard penalty to put it at the 38″

Without the penalty LSU (even with the same 27 yard return) LSU would have had to go 43 yards to get a field goal attempt under 50 yards. They also would have had to pass on about every play and be desperate and UGA could’ve been able to pin their ears back and continue the sack parade”

- Everyone knows none of this is true, and still no response from you after being called out.

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

BIG AL

October 5th, 2009
4:19 pm

hey coach smith…win something, you say.

well, last time we “discussed it” on the field,
we shoved OUR hobnail boot right up your azz.

Hell, the dogs from the West look a hell of a lot better than the show-boatin punks from georgia.

whats with all the BS dancing on teh bench after the azst game.

what a bunch of punks.

richt HAS lost control of the players. It started last summaer and so obvious.

AZ Jacket

October 5th, 2009
4:20 pm

Tony, why don’t you tell everyone on this blog who was the prime initiator of this rule. It is not something new. It was pushed by Vince Dooley when he was AD. He was a highly respected AD and his opinion was taken seriously. He coached his players to not show boat and thought that was something that should not be part of college football. Just let the player do as they please between plays, dance point, taunt, it does not have any bearing on the sport. What a joke.

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
4:20 pm

Here’s some more from you while calling me a moron.

“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”

And here’s my response.

“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?”

Do you want to keep playing?

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:22 pm

BIG AL

say it with me….Alabama is 1-3 vs UGA in the last 4….ONE AND THREE

Georgia has 2 SEC titles and played for a 3rd in the last 7 years as well as 2 Sugar Bowl Wins in 3 trips

ALABAMA HAS WON NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:23 pm

Mutt

Take your Techie rearend back to your blog and talk Tech football with ALL of YOUR FANS……BOTH OF THEM!

TrueCrimson

October 5th, 2009
4:25 pm

Have to agree CharlotteGator, next Saturday is a huge day for SEC football. Georgia needs to put this one behind them and get ready for the Vols.

BTW: Just heard that the SEC has officially apologized for the call on AJ Greene. For what it’s worth…

AZ Jacket

October 5th, 2009
4:26 pm

Coach smith, is this a UGA blog or a college football blog. I guess you are right, Tony is a homer and anything he writes is biased to the bulldogs. That is okay but read my last post as to who pushed this rule through the NCAA.

sb

October 5th, 2009
4:27 pm

All the proof you need is that Mark May and Lou Holtz both said it was a terrible call and that UGA got screwed. They both hate UGA and never say anything postive about UGA. Recent example Rashad Jones hit in OK State game. Both said it was a great call by the official. They were the only 2 people in the country that thought so.

AZ Jacket

October 5th, 2009
4:28 pm

Did they apologize to LSU for that call? What a wimp running the SEC? His officials should walk with that kind of support.

Bubba Bulldog

October 5th, 2009
4:28 pm

It all goes back to the rule made by Vince “The Prince” Dooley. Poetic justice if you think about it.

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
4:28 pm

coach smith,

“Just remember BOTH of UGA’s losses came to teams who were Ranked inthe top 5″

Congratulations. Where is Oklahoma St. now? Oh that’s right, they suck. They lost to Houston at home. Guess it’s not that hard to go to Stillwater and impose your will.

What about teams in the SEC W and UF? They play LSU EVERY YEAR. Do they get this built in excuse if they lose to the Bayou Bengals?

You’re fun.

T

October 5th, 2009
4:29 pm

Why dont you Dawg fans focus on Tenn? Face it, you are 3-2, you lost on Saturday… you lost.. get ready for Tenn or you just might be 3-3 this time next week.

Q

October 5th, 2009
4:29 pm

Goodness,

Jawga is full of crybabies!!!

Geaux Tigers!

PMC

October 5th, 2009
4:32 pm

If they are saying the call on Scott was correct… then it’s time to change the rule.

IF individual players do something truely callous, crude or unsportsmanlike…. KICK THEM OUT OF THE GAME! Celebrating a touchdown in a normal manner whether it draws attention to an individual or group of individuals is not worthy of a 15 yard major penalty.

gdawginkalamazoo

October 5th, 2009
4:32 pm

Mutt Nonsense, you have to lay off us dawg fans when it comes to kicking off and touchbacks. It has been awhile since our program has witnessed one of our kickers kicking it into the endzone for a touchback. For awhile there I actually thought that they might have changed that rule but I see the LSU kicker punch one into the endzone to start the game. Kick it short and out of bounds is what we are used to.

Mutt Nonsense

October 5th, 2009
4:33 pm

“Take your Techie rearend back to your blog and talk Tech football with ALL of YOUR FANS……BOTH OF THEM!”

Ahh, the infamous “if you can’t beat them (or even have an intelligible conversation), then call them a Tech fan and tell them to go to their own blog” defense.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so predictable. Couldn’t care less about Tech. I enjoyed Miami beating them down. Paul Johnson look like a cross between Gollum and that chick from Wilson Phillips.

You, my friend, have still not responded to being called out for your “loose” facts.

Jefferson

October 5th, 2009
4:33 pm

Just put an ” * ” by the loss. Everyone will understand.

Fred Brumfield

October 5th, 2009
4:34 pm

Enter your comments here Georgia lost the game. LSU made plays at the end that would not have been effected by the call against Green. You should have starte off with this statement instead of saying you are a Homer. I agee the game was poorly officiated and your remarks are poor as well. I believe the call against Green was incorrct and you lack of giving LSU any credit for the win is poor jouranlism. Do not use your position to imply things that are not true Brando does not do this and he is a LSU grad. I will also pray that you return to your high standards.

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:35 pm

CBS is reporting that ROGERS REDDING is ADMITTING that they BLEW THE CALL and the REF is “beating himself up about it”

BIG AL

October 5th, 2009
4:35 pm

Porr coach smith….

cant seem to handle the fact that theres has been a REGIME CHANGE in Tuscaloosa.

uga is losing on the field to bama, and has now begun losing on the recruiting trail to bama.

As long as coach saban is here, uga wont sniff an SEC title for the next SEVERAL YEARS. Just keep playing like your playing and you’ll be the new sec-east bottom-feeder.

Its tougher…in the West.

collegeballfan

October 5th, 2009
4:37 pm

If the coaches get off their lazy butts & coach their players how to not celebrate in the end zone there would never be a call on the well coached teams.

It is not the rule, it is the lack of coaching.

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:37 pm

BIG AL

Alabama is 1-1 since the “great Saban” got to Alabama

AND

Richt and UGA have beaten Saban at LSU and BAMA my friend

And actually Georgia has the #2 incoming recruiting class in the SEC behind LSU according to Rivals and Scout

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:39 pm

here is the link to the SEC admitting they screwed the Dawgs

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/12316671

Sid

October 5th, 2009
4:40 pm

Does anyone remember that CVD(Thats Dooley with 2 O’s and few brains)was one of the biggest supporters of the rule(Poor choice of words).I think he initiated it when he was on the NCAA Rules Committee !!! It s___ s and Dooley knows it as millions more do!!!

Great job Vincent !!

claygast

October 5th, 2009
4:41 pm

The only blown call is that everyone thinks for certain the outcome would have been different. UGA fouled up on the kickoff formation (5 yards), and if the play had been executed the exact same way, Holliday still made it to the 47. That is either poor kick team coverage, or just another awesome return by Holliday. Either way- it is irrelevant. Charles Scott scored on an inside run from 33-yards out. He could have gone 50, 60, 70 or 100 yards on that play if there were enough yard markers- the fact of the matter is that UGA’s defense got absolutely burned by a team that called a running play in a hurry-up offense. Yall should be embarassed and should focus your energy and criticism on your defense rather than finding a scape goat.

TrueCrimson

October 5th, 2009
4:43 pm

coach smith,

That was a good game that Georgia played in Tuscaloosa. This Georgia team doesn’t look very much like that one did. I’ve always respected Georgia’s football tradition and I like Coach Richt, but there are more problems in Athens right now than all of the officials in the SEC can cure. You can’t fix the problem until you admit that you have one.

sb

October 5th, 2009
4:45 pm

Re: Tim Rupert

Yes I saw the tackle of Curran too, didn’t wan’t to seem to bitter. I said saturday if the refs were held accountable like the coaches and players this would all change. Make them have a press conference after every game, face the media and explain their calls. I also agree with other posts that UGA penalty problems started with the Fla game 2 years ago. If this is some kind of personal vendetta against UGA by SEC refs that needs to be taken care of. It has gone on 2 years and is getting a little obvious, and is getting to the point where it can effect coaches livleyhood. The only way to handle it is hold them responsible.
Anyone remember the ref that made the Jasper Sanks call years ago was suspended, maybe if they faced any repurcusions like this they may understand 96,000 people are not packed in the stadium to see them.

BIG AL

October 5th, 2009
4:48 pm

georgia should be GRATEFUL that we dont play again this year.

It would be another convincing “funeral” for sure.

See my previous stats. miss state played lsu better than georgia did.

As for recruiting, yeh, we see how well THATS been working out for ya.
over-rated, undisciplined, undeveloped players for sure.

[...] for excessive celebration after go-ahead touchdowns in the final two minutes, which have been so universally deplored in the subsequent 48 hours. It’s not just that they were bad calls (they obviously were), or [...]

coach smith

October 5th, 2009
4:51 pm

TrueCrimson

That UGA team actually looks ALOT like this one

Both have young talent (Moreno & Stafford were freshmen)

This team actually has MORE young talent (AJ, Orsen Charles, B.Smith, Ealey, Samuel, King, M.Brown, D. Tyson, B.Boykin)

That UGA team finished 8-4 then won th ebowl game to go 9-4

I can see 8-4 or 9-3 for this team too

So actually the 2 teams are quite similar with this one actually being in a BETTER position for the future