I am usually a fan of the system. I generally defend the rules, but I am absolutely fed up with arbitrary application of NCAA football celebration rules. In last year’s Pinstripe Bowl, Kansas State trailed Syracuse by 8 in the closing seconds when senior wide receiver Adrian Hilburn scored the second touchdown of his career in the biggest game of his career. A simple salute in the endzone drew a 15 yard penalty that made the Wildcats’ two-point attempt 18 rather than 3 yards. Predictably, they lost the game and the Big Ten referee crew took a lot of heat. Also predictably, the Big Ten backed their referees. I could rant about that call all day, but I’ll let you be the judge…does this celebration warrant a penalty?
I bring up that example because it is, in my opinion, the most influential of many poor applications of the NCAA’s celebration rule. I bring it up today because of this:
In 2009 I wrote about this very issue on a sports forum that I frequent. My opinion has not changed:
I feel that celebrations should be directly proportional to the largeness of the play/situation. Here are a few case studies from the 2009 season to illustrate my point:
Situation: Virginia Tech scores a late touchdown to make the game against Duke a two possession affair
Proper Celebration: High fives for everyone involved and one chest bump then jog to the sideline.
Situation: Ohio St. scores a touchdown in the 4th to go ahead of Indiana 33-7.
Proper Celebration: Hand the ball to the official and walk to the sideline without even smiling.
Situation: Brett Favre throws a 38 yard touchdown pass in the last 10 seconds of the game to take a 3 point lead over the 49ers.
Proper Celebration: Brett should rip off the purple number 4 jersey and sing Hail to the Chief while riding the mascot piggyback around the arena.
Situation: USC scores a late touchdown to increase the lead over San Jose St. to 56-3.
Proper Celebration: Hang your head in shame, get down on your knees and apologize profusely to all in attendance that your athletic department scheduled this game.
So here’s my conclusion- I like the rule because taunting and unsportsmanlike acts have no place in amateur sports. I dislike the way the rule is occasionally applied because it is used to punish genuinely positive emotion.
What do you think? Were the officials correct in their application of the rule against LSU today? Their coach, Les Miles, said they were but I think he was just being nice. Should the rules limiting celebrations be changed?