I'm a little heated this morning. I actually read the report last night, but given hours to sink in, the information has me steaming. Apparently, the NCAA rules committee is considering a pretty major change to the "Taunting" penalty, making it a live-ball foul. Under the new rule, if a player commits this foul on say, an 85 yard touchdown score, the score will be nullified and a fifteen yard penalty will be enforced from the spot of the foul.
What's my problem with this? COME ON! If you can't see the problem here, call Stevie Wonder..because HE can.
Honestly, this is another example of a bad rule that is going to cause problems in NCAA football. First of all, how does a referee decide what IS and what IS NOT taunting? Last season, UGA was flagged for celebration on a touchdown play when (i think) Caleb King dove into the end zone. He was diving to evade a tackle, but apparently that didn't matter. The ensuing kickoff was from the 20 yard line. Now, though, we'd lose the points and be forced to replay the down from the 16. What if a kid points up to the stands as he's crossing the 30 yardline with no one around him. Is that a foul? I'm willing to bet that some hack official will call it. Not all officials (most likely one who has some bone to pick with either the kid, the school, or his own athletic dreams that never came true), but someone will call it.
AND THEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM.
Holding, Pass Interference, Offsides, even the weak "Hands to the face" rule on the QB....these rules are all OBJECTIVE. It either happens, or it doesn't. There's no room for a referee's "judgment" call on whether or not a foul even exists (we'll get to interpretation of events later). As seen in the UGA v LSU game last season, the refs don't have the best "judgment"when it comes to unsportsmanlike acts. So, under this proposed rule change, instead of defining EXACTLY what the ref can and can not call, Oregon AD and committee chairman Mike Bellotti wants to allow referees to, at their own volition, change the outcomes of games.
Here's a scenario for you.....
Texas leads Alabama by 5 in a national title rematch with seconds to go. McElroy hits a wide-open Julio Jones on the Texas 40 yard line as time expires. Julio pumps his fist, and points to the crowd behind the endzone as he crosses the thirty and heads for the endzone. As he reaches the endzone, he kneels, places the ball on the ground, and seems to go into prayer. The team runs to join him, and they grab him, lifting him into the air. It's an amazing comeback victory and yet another fantastic chapter in the history of college football.......Only, there's a problem. The head referee, an Auburn grad, dropped his little yellow flag back at the thirty. The Call? Taunting. The score is erased. Alabama is given the ball on the Texas 45. Texas drops eleven players into coverage, and a hail mary pass is knocked to the ground at the 1.
Tell me...which is the better ending? The one where the kids on the field defined it, or the one where the official did?
Know what my biggest problem with this is? THERE'S NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REFS. The refs that botched the UGA-LSU game...they worked another game the next week...and screwed IT up, too. Only then were they suspended. Still, the teams they screw over don't benefit from that at all. UGA doesn't get those fifteen yards back. They don't get to kickoff to LSU and put them deep in their own territory. No, instead, they get an "L" (in part) because some hack official "Didn't like the way that kid was actin'".
Even the OBJECTIVE fouls get screwed up fairly often. People aren't actually offsides, players get held and not called, a WR pulls on a DB, causing the DB to fall, and when the DB falls on the WR's feet, tripping him, the DB gets flagged for Pass Interference.
How do we fix all of this? 1st, we get rid of the celebration and taunting fouls completely. Just get rid of them. There's no need for them. Football is an EMOTIONAL game. Kids are gonna get fired up. They're gonna celebrate, they're gonna taunt. It's no big deal. No player out there is gonna get his heart broken because some other kid taunts him. Now, if I were Bellotti, I'd get rid of those rules...but do it QUIETLY. Even better, leave them in the rule books...but tell the officials that they'll be fined $20,000 for each celebration or taunting foul that they call. That way, the fouls don't get called, but the kids still don't commit many, because they're illegal. Win-Win!
2nd, calls like pass interference, late hits, helmet-to-helmet, etc...need to be REVIEWABLE. It's unfair to get too angry at an official whose head is on a swivel and catches the tail-end of a vicious hit, tossing a flag because it SEEMS like it was a helmet-to-helmet (Reshad Jones, LSU). Still, the call was wrong. Reshad struck the WR's SHOULDER, not his helmet. Things that happen in an instant are subject to interpretation of the official. The problem is, the officials often get things wrong. When they do, replay should be able to overrule the call on the field. There should be an official in the booth who is not only presiding over the actions of the players (Stepping out of bounds, crossing the plane) but also those of the officials. If a ref blows a call, and it costs a defense 30 yards of field position, or even worse, a score, then there needs to be accountability!
If I were Mike Bellotti, THAT is how I'd look to preserving the integrity of the game. But worrying about a kid's "Eye-black" (oh yeah, I didn't even mention the proposal that will require that all eye-black be ONLY black...no logos, writing, symbols, etc. No Bible Verses (Tebow) or "I Run This State" slogans (UGA RBS)) or whether he taunts another player isn't gonna cut it. I hate to tell Mike Bellotti, but it isn't the kids who but a black mark on NCAA football...it's the jerks in charge.
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If you want to take emotion out, why don't we just create robots and put them out there?
Actually, that might be pretty cool.
On top of such rules being subjective, they're applied very unevenly. A certain former Florida QB got away with a hell of a lot of taunting in his college career, but AJ Greene looks at the stands and gets flagged. I like taunting rules being in place, but they do need to be a LOT more objective and they certainly need to be reviewable. I would also like to see them stop enforcing the rule but keep it on the books (like they do for holding in the Big 12).
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