I understand the rationale behind the NCAA’s controversial rules change to take points off the board starting in 2011 if a player is called for taunting on his way to the end zone.
The folks who run college football have been uncomfortable for some years now with all the high-stepping and pointing and diving toward the goal line like Superman that they see as a lack of sportsmanship, and they feel that calling a dead-ball foul that’s assessed on the PAT or ensuing kickoff just hasn’t gotten through to the players. As Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association put it, “this rule is one way to make sure the kids pay attention.”
And this won’t change what happens if a player or team is called for excessive celebration. That’s after the score and will still be a dead-ball foul tacked on to the kickoff.
I understand all that, but I still think this is one of those cases where all the potential pitfalls make the cure worse than the ailment.
We all know that taunting calls vary wildly from conference to conference and even game to game within a conference. Why saddle the officials with yet another subjective call that forces them to inject themselves further into the flow of a game, possibly altering the outcome?
As A.J. Green found out last season against LSU, some officials already have a hair trigger when it comes to those calls. And, as the video showed afterward, they can be flat-out wrong.
That’s my main worry: the execution of this kind of call. Dave Parry, the NCAA’s coordinator of college football officiating, says that “if it’s close to diving into the end zone, most likely it would be ruled that the act ended while in the end zone. We’ll be lenient.” But Dave Parry won’t be the one out there throwing the flags, and in the SEC in particular we know how inconsistently rules are interpreted when they’re subjective.
Plus, as it is, those flags generally only come out for offensive players. If taunting is so bad for the game, why not call it on defenders pounding their chest as they stand over a player they’ve tackled? Or on the defender who holds a running back down on the ground after the play is over? Those calls do happen, but oh so rarely.
And then there’s the question of why the NCAA is trying to keep players from letting their emotions get the better of them when part of the appeal of college football is all the emotion it stirs, among the players as well as the fans. Why try to dampen that?
I know, I know. The players should act like they’ve been there before. And celebrating too early can sometimes result in something really embarrassing like dropping the ball before you’ve crossed the goal line. But those are discussions that should be between players and their coaches. Why get the officials involved?
Rules that are intended to protect players from injury make sense, like the new ban on wedge blocking on kickoffs. But trying to give college football the demeanor of a round of golf at Augusta National is just wrongheaded.