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

Not Disappointed

October 5th, 2009
8:57 am

Yeah, the calls are becoming a joke. I’m a Jacket fan, but believe the pups were Cheated the other day on the bad call.

Ramblin Wreck!

Not Disappointed

October 5th, 2009
8:59 am

Wow, I was first? “Who Knew?” Get it together pups and jackets. Tenn has someting to prove and so do the Seminoles!

Go Jackets!

Dawg Fud

October 5th, 2009
9:05 am

I thought the call was terrible. It did impact the outcome of the game.

But credit LSU for coming down the field and scoring. They won, we lost. It stinks but sometimes life ain’t fair.

GO DAWGS!

RAMBLE ON!!!

October 5th, 2009
9:07 am

Blame Richt, it all goes back to the UF Thuga dance. haha.

You know it’s Oct., the fleabags are talking “wait till next year”, and “Fire Richt”….too funny.

Herschel Talker

October 5th, 2009
9:07 am

“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.”

Tony – this is an outstanding blog entry, but this statement is BS. Perhaps it will get them to channel their enthusiam in more productive ways that can lead to better and more disciplined play. If anything, this team could use some forced discipline in the penalty area, as it seems Richt has no ability to control it on his own.

drb

October 5th, 2009
9:08 am

Enter your comments here
It’s a crying shame. Two teams play their hearts out, and a overzealous official determines the outcome of the game.

Saint Simons

October 5th, 2009
9:08 am

20 – 13 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahhaha

buck

October 5th, 2009
9:09 am

Tony…yes you are a homer….you failed to mention that the best team won….LSU.

LSU was able to overcome the poor excessive celebration call on Scott…where as Jawga did not man up….plain and simple….

Herschel Talker

October 5th, 2009
9:09 am

RAMBLE ON!!! –

For once, we are in agreement. Richt lost control of the team there. The short-term gain has been offset by much long-term pain. I’m sure teams coached by TUrban Meyer, Nick Satan, and Paul Johnson would not be having these problems.

RedKneckerson

October 5th, 2009
9:09 am

This was karma. I htink the refs knew that UGA was living by the skin of their teeth. They knew they had to balance out the W-L record, and this was a way to do it. There is no way they were going to let UGA possibly back into the SECCG.Now UGA will be just a middle of the pack team in the SEC east.

38-3

October 5th, 2009
9:10 am

Ramble ON!!! still waiting on those chick fil a rings you MORON.

What’s too funny is seeing your insects get smacked around by Miami 2 weeks ago. I see still not ready for “pime time”. Keep dreaming!

Sam Houston

October 5th, 2009
9:10 am

The call was bad, but the reason Ga lost the game was they could not stop LSU when they had to.

G Force

October 5th, 2009
9:12 am

I’m not a Dawg fan, and I don’t want to see imitators of Ochocinco and TO in college football, but that was a bad call on AJ Green.

skydawg

October 5th, 2009
9:12 am

Mr. Barnhart,

You nailed it. The “excessive” celebration of AJ Green should have been a perfect no-call. The play came in the closing minutes of the game in front of the CBS Television audience which totals up in the millions, and in front of 96,000 screaming fans. Plus it was a go-ahead touchdown. A big moment to say the least. Celebrating with your team for a couple seconds should not cost you the game. Problem is, the officials stepped in after the fact and altered the course of history because they believed they saw something egregious. I have watched the play a number of times myself, and the fact of the matter is the officials were wrong.

Tony, keep up the great work. You’re one of the best in the business.

David Askew

October 5th, 2009
9:12 am

During the Miami game there were at least two touchdowns scored and the player ran out of the end zone, faced the crowd and beat his chest and there was not a celebration penalty called. The call against AJ Green was the worst I have ever seen!

1L

October 5th, 2009
9:13 am

Did anyone else realize this is the second game this season UGA has been the poster child for officials calling the game too stringently? OK State and the hits that were too hard? if you notice, that penalty has not been called as much the rest of the season.

As to the LSU game, let the kids play ball. remember the icky shuffle, the dirty bird, etc? what if the excessive celebration rule were in effect then as it is now? none of those dances would exist!

Football is supposed to be fun, let people have fun. the crowd enjoys TD celebrations. If you want to regulate players celbrating like a fool after a sack, etc. go for it, but when you put points on the board, CELEBRATE!

Bear B

October 5th, 2009
9:13 am

The last time I heard so much whining from UGA fans was when you guys lost in the CWS and blamed ESPN for favoritisim…..You are lucky that Les was coaching LSU as it should have been 24 – 0 at halftime..in favor of LSU…..UGA had 1 1st down in the 1st half….Get real….. the penalty of excessive celebration…not to mention the additional bonehead penalty on the same kick-off just prolonged the inevitable……LSU beat you.

Gatorzone

October 5th, 2009
9:13 am

Bad call. What happened to enjoying the excitement of the game? I agree completely with Tony and Verne and Gary. This is going to push college football to be a boring Belicheck type of reaction after a HUGE touchdown. The excitement and passion is why it is such a great sport!!

Marta Evangelist

October 5th, 2009
9:13 am

I understand why a fan of the Bulldogs would want this penalty removed from the books. Why not just get rid of EVERY penalty Tony…then Georgia would win almost every game. The simple fact is, Georgia is the most undisciplined team in the country. Under Richt, they are a “me-first” group of individuals, so they will continue to get flagged because this is how they are expected to behave. This coaching staff has always looked at this kind of behavior with a knowing nod and a wink.

GatorG

October 5th, 2009
9:13 am

Tony, your general point is good. But, the emotion you’re putting into it (The worst call you’ve seen in 30 years? Give me a break!) makes you a homer. You should have waited a few days, calmed down, and then written this article without the emotional Bulldawg slant.

CharlotteGator

October 5th, 2009
9:14 am

Watched every second of the game and those calls at the end were definitely bogus. The UF call Tony mentions definitely impacted that game, but it was in the 2nd or 3rd quarter so it was easy to recover from. Obviously calls made at the end like that are more deflating.

That said though, the game still had to be played and I thought the long return by Holliday was the nail in the coffin. You just can’t give that up in that situation. Holliday caught it at the 15 (pretty good kick) and brought it out to the 48 (then tack on the formation penalty). After the second call, I believe it was Boykin who caught it on the 25 (poor kick by LSU) and only got it to the 32.

It reminded me a lot about a UF-FSU game from the beginning of the decade where the refs really impacted the outcome, however, at the end of the day, UF gave up a 40+ yd pass play in the final minutes which ended the game. That loss hurt, and I really want to blame the refs for the whole thing, but deep down I know that the Gator D had the let down that ultimately gave FSU the victory. Bad refs or not, you can’t give up big plays that you know are coming and will ultimately hurt you.

Not saying how UGA fans should feel after this game, cause it’s not my place, just my 2 cents…

No BcS

October 5th, 2009
9:14 am

Absolutely on the mark. This celebration penalty has become a joke. I was on the opposite side of the field so I can’t comment on what Green did, but when the LSU player scored the game ending TD, he absolutely taunted the Georgia crowd and should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. I don’t want to start seeing players pull Sharpies out of their socks to sign the football after scoring…or doing some bonehead acrobatics in the endzone, but cut the kids some slack. You’re down the whole game and score what you believe is the game winning touchdown…who wouldn’t get excited? I couldn’t help but remember the Washington player last year who scored and then threw the football up in the air in his excitement…and was flagged…which I believe cost them the game. Cut out the B.S. but let the boys play!

Paul H

October 5th, 2009
9:14 am

NEITHER team should have been called for celebration. I absolutely HATE it when refs take the ball away from the players and in to their own hands, DESPITE who I’m rooting for. The penalty needs to be ELIMINATED NOW.

Whine and Cheese

October 5th, 2009
9:14 am

Homer.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger group of cry babies than the fans of UGA. My God, do you think Charles Scott wouldn’t have scored that last touchdown if he had to run 15 more yards? Would he have just fell over and collapsed from exhaustion for having to run 45 more feet?

How about manning up and making a tackle when it matters? How about falling somewhere in, oh say, the bottom 100 of least penalized teams rather than 115th out of 120? How about scoring a point some time in the first 45 minutes of play? How about whipping somebodys butt on the OL and actually have some impersonation of a running game?

Jesse Jackson

October 5th, 2009
9:14 am

I agree with Tim Brando on this one, why do the SEC refs call it more than any other conference.

Take a look at this picture from the Washington – Notre Dame game, where’s the flag on that one?

http://a.espncdn.com/media/apphoto/b9edfe30-447c-405b-9565-98593ab025f8.jpg

jumbeauxtiger

October 5th, 2009
9:14 am

Perhaps it was a bad call but if so then so was the one on Scott. Nevertheless it didn’t cost the Dawgs the game as some fans claim. UGA didn’t cover the kickoff and LSU did when both had to kick off from the 15.

LSU made the plays at the end while the Dawgs didn’t. Those things happen.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

D-MAN

October 5th, 2009
9:15 am

Tony, I totally agree with you on this..I was staring at my tv in total disgust for about 5 mins after this stupid call. It was totally uncalled for and I agree, had a negative impact on the rest of the game. On another front, I have to say, it is time to give Joe Cox a rest. The season is over for the Dawgs. There will no doubt be another loss or three (Florida for sure, Auburn? GT? ), and the Dawgs really have nothing to play for. Sooo, it is time to prepare the next QB for next year. As sad as I am to say it, lets look to next year by getting the new guy prepped with good playing time and Richt should definitely be looking at his list of potential offensive and defensive coordinators. It’s time to shake up the system and do whats right for the team and the fans and forget this loyality issue that haunts Richt and his team. Special teams also needs help. So, Richt do the SMART thing, call the season what it is: OVER. The Dawgs pretty much failed every expectation. So, coach..do the RIGHT thing and get this team turned around for NEXT year…NOW. Am I right on this Dawg fans?

Desert Dawg

October 5th, 2009
9:15 am

Can UGA with hold payment to the ref that threw that flag? I know I would not pay a dime to someone that dumb and unaware of the situation. Also, can UGA request that ref never officiate a game in Athens ever again?

dawgday

October 5th, 2009
9:16 am

Thanks TB. It needed to be said after the Washington/BYU debacle last year and it needed to be said today. Hopefully the NCAA will use some common sense and do something about this issue. Unfortunately, we aren’t Nortre Dame/USC or OSU or it would be front and center, judge and jury on sportscenter.

As a college football fan I appreciate this article. Hope it gets fixed.

Tony Is An Excessive Homer

October 5th, 2009
9:16 am

Fine, change the rule. But, until it is changed, abide by the rule. And to clarify, Georgia did not lose the game because of that one call. Georgia was dominated by LSU for most of the game, and Georgia lost because they could not make a play when they had to and LSU could. Following the penalty against Green, Georgia could not make a tackle to keep the LSU kick returner from crossing midfield. In addition, Georgia compounded the poor tackling on the kick return with a penalty. Georgia could not make a tackle to keep Scott from scoring. Georgia had the same situation after LSU scored and was called for excessive celebration. Georgia could not return the kick as well as LSU did. Georgia could not produce a score as LSU did, instead Cox threw an interception. So, until the rule is changed, abide by it and do not whine or make excuses.

Homer

October 5th, 2009
9:16 am

I can tell Barnhart couldn’t sleep after this one. The pathetic tackling cost UGA the game.

Paul H

October 5th, 2009
9:16 am

Nonetheless, the Dogs failed in so many ways from poor coaching, offense, special teams, that it’s hard to pin the whole game on one celebration call. Kudos to the defense for playing tough, junkyard ball 2 weeks in a row.

Nicky

October 5th, 2009
9:17 am

This all stems from CMR allowing the UGA players to do that “thug” celebration against UF…..bad karma…refs looking closely at UGA….take your pick….If UGA had more than 1st down in the 1st half..maybe it would have been a different story.

JayRoot

October 5th, 2009
9:19 am

.

NONE ARE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO REFUSE TO SEE!!!!

.After running to the middle of the endzone to celebrate with teamates this super-inflated egotistical , wanna-be diva walked back to the back of the endzone and stood for a second(a second is all it takes) in a “look at me” posture.

If this WR had continued on his way back to the Ugag sidelines without stopping or going to the back of the endzone there would have been no penalty.

We all want to see more of this!! I applaud the officials for trying to put a stop to this endzone self-promoting.

DO WHATEVER YOU WANT … on the sidelines but, GET THE HELL OFF THE FIELD AFTER SCORING … MORONS!!!

.

Nativebird

October 5th, 2009
9:19 am

Consistency of application is indeed the problem, as is to a lesser extent, say, Pass Interference. In BOTH cases, it’s time to consider having these “judgement” calls, subject to INSTANT REPLAY as well in the booth. Let the ref’s brethren in the booth have a look-see when it is close and too fast and too instant to really make a sound judgement. I say don’t eliminate this rule designed to do what it’s done for the most part, reduce THUGGERY in the game, let’s be honest. Consistency is indeed the issue.

Steve

October 5th, 2009
9:20 am

Tony, Georgia played poorly and lost. You can debate one call all you want, but when the game was on the line, LSU came out and delivered. Please give their players some credit.

Tom

October 5th, 2009
9:20 am

Bad call, definitely. Mind you, I doubt Charles Scott would’ve magically tripped at the 15 yard line had it NOT been called, but it was still terrible.

Nicky

October 5th, 2009
9:21 am

No BcS….when Scott from LSU scored the winning touchdown he pointed to the sky/heaven thanking his Lord and Saviour…he did not taunt any uga fans as you presume….there are not uga fans in heaven based upon this whining…..

Felix the Cat

October 5th, 2009
9:21 am

Bad call Bad call bad call. However the better team won the game. As a dawg fan I know we can play better and maybe this year we play the role of spoiler.. Auburn, Florida , Honey bees, I would be afraid. VERY AFRAID

Dawgaholic

October 5th, 2009
9:22 am

The tech fans that come over here are sooo stupid cause they have nooo idea that come the end of this season when uga comes to south west dekalb , i mean bobby dodd that they are getting waxed by our so called badly coached teams and ultimately BREAK the hearts of you jackassses Again…BOOK IT

BILLY JACK

October 5th, 2009
9:23 am

Tony-you are exactly right but it is not just this game it is nationwide.Officials want to be in the middle of the game and get noticed and the SEC officials are the worst in the nation.The unwritten rule in the NBA is you dont call stupid fouls under a minute.The LSU-GORGIA game was evenly fought game for 59 minutes and some jackass makes a call like that.I am not saying that is the only reason we lost but it was devastating nevertheless.You techies that think Green pushed off, you clearly dont know anything about football.I am watching the replay and he outjumped the guy and never touched the DB.You need to be at a Georgia game and see how DB’S pull at his jersey constantly and very few interference calls go against the DB.The call was one of the worst in college football history but we could of still lost on the FG attempt because we have the worst kickoff coverage team in the United States.Fabris coaches this team and should resign before noon today.They have been awful for 3 years.Every def coach but Garner should be replaced.If these things are not corrected we will be playing in a bowl game on a tuesday on like dec 16 in the afternoon like tech usually does.Everything I have stated are the facts and they are undisputed.

ohio state

October 5th, 2009
9:24 am

The flag on LSU was just as bad. where is the outrage for that one?

[...] the only cause of UGA’s defeat.2.  Tony Barnhart of The AJC writes that it’s time to do away with the “excessive celebration” rule.  And he’s correct.  I’m no fan of showboating, but players should be allowed to [...]

Elvis

October 5th, 2009
9:24 am

Go back and look at some college games from the 60’s and 70’s. Nobody played to the crowd. The bum who started it all was Mark Gastineau from the New York Jets.

Hey Dogtards

October 5th, 2009
9:25 am

uog would get the benefit of the doubt if they weren’t always playing like a bunch of classless thugs. One of the most penalized teams in the country = don’t get much leeway on calls like these.

Eric

October 5th, 2009
9:25 am

Lousy call for sure, but did it affect the outcome of the game? Probably not. We’ll never know. What we do know: Auburn is 5-0! WDE!!!

CTD

October 5th, 2009
9:25 am

The Refs are ALWAYS going to call it tight on the Dawgs for the celebration at Jax v Fla in 07. Every crew wants to send UGA a message
Right or Wrong it will continue

Dawg Tired

October 5th, 2009
9:25 am

Good point Tony. AS for the fans who think this did not impact the game, you don’t understand football very well. A touchback was likely without the penalty. The defense would understand we must stop them. As it turned out, the defense could not really do anything because of the starting field postion. SO obvious. Those with no dog in the fight seem to get it: Mark May was all over this.

GT Alum

October 5th, 2009
9:26 am

It was a terrible call but you’re still a homer Tony. Always have been, always will be. But the suggestion that UGA lost on one play, per Mark Bradley’s blog on Saturday, is laughable. Georgia should have been down 3 touchdowns at the half.

Alphare

October 5th, 2009
9:26 am

Yes. It’s a bad call. But the reason Georgia lost is NOT due to that call. LSU could not kick a field after the punt return, right? why don’t Georgia man up and stop LSU from gaining any yardage, so that LSU couldn’t even kick a field goal? Instead, you missed tackle during the return, you missed tackle and tackle when LSU scored the touch-down.

Official handed the win to LSU? or Georgia couldn’t D? or Georgia fans don’t have brain?