Editorial: It's time for the NCAA to trash the “excessive celebration” rule.

Editorial: It's time for the NCAA to trash the “excessive celebration” rule.

Editorial:  It's time for the NCAA to trash the “excessive celebration” rule.

There is a thief loose in the US.  No, it isn't Tatum Bell taking Rudi Johnson's bags.  The thief carries a whistle and wears stripes. 

By Bill Smith

            The University of Washington has been struggling for years.  Herm Willingham, having been car jacked out of a job at Notre Dame, has been trying desperately to turn the program around.  But, his job is on the line at UW.  His one sterling asset on offense, quarterback Jake Locker, who had carried the team on his back the whole game scored a TD with 2 seconds left against the heavily favored BYU.  BYU owns the longest winning streak in the nation for 1A teams.  That made the score BYU 28 UW 27.

            What transpired next was a totally spontaneous and understandable explosion of school spirit by those on the field?  Locker's team mates knew exactly who it was that had carried the team and hugged him and each other for less than 5 seconds.  That is when the theft occurred.

            The referee threw a flag against this emotional catharsis.  “Personal Fowl for excessive celebration—15 yard penalty.”  The “offended” BYU Cougars chose to take the penalty on the extra point try.  The kick was low and it was blocked.  The refs stole a chance for a win or at the very least overtime away from a team, a coach, and a state that so desperately needed it.

            Who knows what would have happened if the penalty had not set the ball at the 18 yard line making the kick 37 yards.  Would have the beleaguered coach gone for 2 and the win?  Or would he have followed the traditional rule and play for overtime at home?  Who knows?  The point is that the Huskies should have had that chance.

            In a comment after the game the referee said that the celebration was the throwing of the ball in the air.  “It's not a judgment call.  It is a rule that must be enforced.” 

            I'm sorry to get political but this is political correctness take to the extreme.  Evidently there is an article in our Constitution that guarantees freedom from being insulted.  I must admit even in reviewing my Constitutional law course at OSU, I still have not found it.

            My Dad is a very bright guy.  One of his favorite sayings is “It's no sin to be ignorant.  It is however a sin to be arrogant about your ignorance.”  The rule is just one more case of the NCAA being arrogant about their ignorance. 

            The game is played by 18-22 year old boys.  For a vast majority of them, this will be their final level to play a game they have loved and been involved in since they were 8 years old.  There was no taunting of BYU.  There was no intent to insult anyone.  It was a group of exhausted young men expressing a depth of appreciation for each other and for the game they play that civilians may never understand.  And all of that effort sacrifice and mutual determination was taken away in a single bad application of a worse rule.

            What should be done?  Drop the rule all together.  Make taunting an opponent or official a penalty.  But either define this in a way that takes the judgment in the call.  The NCAA eliminated the 5 yard penalty for incidental contact with a face mask because the officials found it too hard to decide what was flagrant and what was not.  Do the same with this.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams and has scouted talent.  He is a senior writer for http://BrutusReport.com.  He has also published several novels on http://ebooks-library.com/index.cfm and edits http://fryingpanpolitics.blog.com

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