New Rule Doesn’t Take Away Fun But…

The NCAA passed a few new rules this week – one of which is pretty good and another which is opens a can of worms that is very susceptible to abuse.

Golden Tate - 2009 Michigan Touchdown
Starting in 2011, plays like Golden Tate's 2009 touchdown against Michigan could be called back under new NCAA rules. (Photo - IconSMI)

The good rule eliminates wedge blocks on kickoffs. The NFL did away with wedge blocks last year and the NCAA was quick to follow suit this off-season. Injuries on kickoffs tend to be on the severe side – NCAA studies have shown 1 in 5 injuries on kickoffs in college football lead to concussions. If eliminating wedge blocks can cut down on concussions, great.

A side effect of this new rule might be a little more excitement in the return game. Logic would suggest that limiting the returning team’s blocking schemes would cut down on kick return yardage. Some stats from the NFL in its first season without wedge blocks suggests otherwise. In 2008, when wedge blocks were legal, there were 13 kicks returned for touchdowns in the NFL. A year later, in 2009, without wedge blocks, 18 kicks were taken all the way.

Anyway you look at it, this rule is pretty solid.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way let’s get into the one I’m not too fond of.

The NCAA decided to tackle taunting this off-season. So, starting in 2011, taunting penalties will become live ball penalties instead dead ball meaning that if a player is flagged for taunting enroute to the end zone, the touchdown would be called back and a 15 yard penalty would be assessed from the spot of foul.

On the surface this might not seem too bad. Reducing taunting is a good thing right?

Where this new rule becomes a problem is that is adds another layer of discretion for the refs. Taunting is not exactly clear cut. There is a level of judgment needed to be made by the official for a flag to be thrown. What could be taunting to one official might just be a little too much excitement to another.

Remember Taylor Stubblefield’s 97 yard touchdown against Notre Dame back in 2004? Let me refresh your memory.


Stubblefield got flagged for taunting on that play for raising his fist at his own 40 yard line. Under new rules the touchdown would be negated and Purdue would have gotten pushed back to its own 25 yard line. No backflips, no dives into the end-zone, no high stepping. Just a little fisting pumping as he ran into the end-zone. Starting in 2011 though, such a play would get called back.

The Stubblefield play pretty clearly shows how much discretion will come into play with this new rule. Not every official would have called that taunting. Was what Stubblefield did any worse than what Golden Tate did against Michigan in 2009 when he slowed down and extended the ball before scoring against Michigan? Not all yet. Stubblefied was flagged, Tate wasn’t.

Note – a NCAA spokesman told ESPN on Thursday that the Tate play would be a live ball 15 yard penalty from the spot of the foul starting in 2011. Again, even though the play didn’t even draw a flag in 2009.

In a college football landscape where officiating is already a major issue since each conference has its own officials, this rule is ripe for abuse.

Let’s take an out of conference showdown between top 10 teams as an example. Say both teams in this hypothetical matchup have national championship aspirations. The road team scores a long touchdown to steal the lead in the final minute and in a moment of brief exuberance, the player throws his hand or fist in the air before he reaches the end zone. Now, does the NCAA really think that there won’t be major pressure on the home team’s own conference officials to throw that flag to negate the potential game winning touchdown?

Excessive celebration and taunting penalties were already not being handled that well in college football. The current rules were already impacting the outcomes of games.

Remember when Washington was flagged for excessive celebration when Jake Locker tossed the ball in the air after scoring a last minute touchdown against USC a few years back and went on to miss the extra point?

For a Notre Dame example, go back to the 1999 Michigan game when Bobby Brown got flagged for excessive celebration to putting his hands up against his helmet. Notre Dame had to kick off from the 20 yard line and Michigan and the field position shift helped Michigan march down the field for the go ahead score.

Taunting and excessive celebration aren’t good for the game, but as long as players aren’t doing premeditated dances and routines or blatantly taunting opposing players, the NCAA needs to let the kids play the game and have a little fun.
There are so many other areas where the NCAA could be trying to improve the game that this new taunting rule just seems misplaced.

How about toughening rules against teams that don’t graduate their players (or in some cases even attempt to care that their players don’t graduate)? Or how about cracking down on coaches who rack up secondary recruiting violations like parking ticket?

The third new rule the NCAA passed banned the use of messages on eye blacks. Since the personalized messages always kind of annoyed me, I’m all for this one, but this too shows where the NCAA’s priorities are.

Meanwhile, we still haven’t heard the NCAA’s rulings on the now 3+ year Reggie Bush investigation.

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  1. Unfortunately as most predicted the winning touchdown was robbed from Boston (Mass.) Cathedral High quarterback Matt Owens.

    4 yards from making a touchdown on his birthday, he raised his hand, the ref called back the touchdown and they lose the state championship. It’s a horrible way to end his senior year.

  2. This taunting rule will be almost universally reviled once it is implemented (in 2011) and will be removed in 2012 or 2013. It’s too much of a judgment call for such a big impact. Displaying natural exuberance after a great TD is actually a great part of the game. I dislike “in your face” taunting and agree it should be penalized, but certainly not to this extent.

  3. The NCAA also did away with the messages added to the “Eye Black” made famous by Reggie Bush and his area code.
    Speaking of Bush, word is that he settled his civil law suit brought on by Lloyd Lake and the now Defunk New Era Sports & Entertainment agency just before it was to go to court.
    Any thoughts on how the NCAA will interpet this as it relates to their investigation agianst USC?
    On one hand, because of a settlement, no one had to give sworn testimony. That means less details and personal accounts and points of view.
    On the other hand, a settlement could be interpreted as illeagle benefits were paid to Bush and his family, and he acknowledged as much when he paid Lloyd back on what was claimed that was owed. Wouldn’t a settlement by Bush at this time collaborate the original accusations that Bush said didn’t take place?
    Bush also dragged this out to the very last moment. Apparently to give his former coach time to find a new job, and the school time to find his replacement.
    At least that’s the way I see it.
    Give it to those Trojans, they are a street-wise, sly, crafty bunch. Perhaps the NCAA will see them as a street-wise, and sly, crafty bunch of cheaters.

  4. One hand it’s good that the NCAA is tying to establish sportsmanship into the game and prevent a “chad ochocinco” or a “T.O.” typed celebration. But it appears to have swung drastically to the other side of the pendulum and prevent any kind of celebrating after a TD.

    I like the NFL’s celebration rule…. it allows for some celebrating and will penalize the team if it’s excessive… Seems to work pretty well…

    Hopefully we don’t see what Shazamrock has described… a kid makes a big play and wins a game for his team then gets nailed for excessive celebration just for celebrating.

    I guess we’ll see…

    Blue and Gold game on Saturday!!!! I’ll be there bright and early tailgating…. Cant freakin wait


  5. Can’t you just see it….
    It’s late in the season, BCS Bowls and National Championship asperations on the line. Huge payday’s at stake. Two tough hard nosed teams battling it out. Close game, it goes back and forth, it’s coming down to the wire, the tension in the air is electric, fans from both sides are frantic, THEN… a player catches a little hitch pass, busts a tackle at mid-field, breaks loose down the sidelide, the crowd is going crazy, in his excitement the young 18 yr old reciever holds the ball up in the air with one had as he crosses the goal line for the winning TD, time expires, confetti flies throught the packed stadium, the band play’s the teams’ song…
    And some poor kid will have to live with it, and carry with him for the rest of his day’s. Caught up in the moment as so many young players do. And we haven’t even got to the media, and what ESPN will do him.
    I can see it happening. I just hope that it ain’t us!

    1. I’m calling you a prophet!!

      Just 1.5 years later (Dec 2011) we have exactly what you predicted happen with Boston (Mass.) Cathedral High quarterback Matt Owens .

      4 yards from making a touchdown on his birthday he raised his hand, the ref called off the touchdown and they lose the state championship.

  6. Aren’t players taught to high step into the endzone under hot persuit to avoid shoe string tackles from behind? It’s not taunting, it’s trying to keep your feet in front of you so you don’t get tripped from behind. How are refs going to tell the difference?

  7. Lets not forget about Michigan State planting their flag on our 50 yard line after they beat us a few years back. The game was over so does that make it OK? Or how about all the trash talking that goes on before the game during warm ups or in the tunnel? I would consider these episodes as “Taunting” as well.
    There is a rule about coaches and players staying in their designated area during the game. Before any flags are thrown, each side gets a “Sideline Warning” Will there be any warnings for taunting?
    The NCAA needs to clarify what the rule is and how it will be enforced.
    I like the idea of eliminating wedge blocking. Anything that helps keep these young guys from unecessary, or career ending injuries. Perhaps they should include cut blocking. I find it completely irresponciable to allow lineman the cheap shot art of diving at someone’s knees 40 times a game.
    This type of block might be OK in the open field, but along the line of scrimage the odds of serious injury goes way up.

  8. It’s good to limit true taunting. But the NCAA has completely missed the mark. They are not dealing with true taunting. And now, there will be more cause to question the motives of conference officials who may affect the outcome of games. One could argue that a team which is more marketable might have that critical call go their way to preserve their run, ( and marketing run ), to a championship. Also, ND is most certainly at a disadvantage since we don’t have our own referees.

    Here’s a novel idea. Won’t take, but it would be cool. For 2010, every time a team gets flagged for taunting, a $10K fine will be assessed and given to charity. Taunt on more than one score and your whole gate goes to charity. Now you put the burden of teaching sportsmanship back onto the backs of the coaches and educators.

    The whole thing is driven by money so let money be the thing that leads to behavior modeling. I’d rather see a wimp like Fr. Jenkins pull out his wallet for Haiti Relief than see the Irish cheated out of legitimate win because some Big 10 ref hates Catholics and independents.

    1. C-Dog,

      Mercy, sounds like B.F. Skinner reinforced learning…..Psychology 101. By the way, a great plan for “wimpy Fr. Jenkins”!

  9. i guarantee we get jude on this rule numerous times this year..there making rules that completey diminish the true play of the game

  10. this is moronic. didn’t the ncaa learn anything about the jake locker penalty last year? i opined on this topic a couple months ago when it was in consideration and am in disbelief. here is a headline for you, ‘in response to conspiratorial allegations of refs influencing games, the ncaa gives refs more discretion?’ WTF? if the purpose is to preserve the integrity of the game, then the ncaa managed to take a step backward. nothing calls into question the integrity of the game more than $$$ – conferences – refs. get your s*** together ncaa!!

    if they want to get tough, consider post hoc review followed by possible sanctions. the nfl hits players pocketbooks, the ncaa can hit an individual’s playing time…

  11. I believe the PAC10 is the only conference that uses their own officials for out of conference home games with all other conferences the visiting team brings the officials, not that it will make a large difference in how fair things remain. Coaches will just have to make sure that their players are extra smart about their behavior.

  12. AA’s shushing of the crowd at UM last year was a penalty and it was hardly taunting for a taunting call. Again, your thoughts for the home field of play receiving beneficial calls is spot on. This one is now even more ripe for abuse by officials. I don’t think this needs to be in-conference or out of conference problems, just the team that has the most to gain and where the officials allegiances are is all that’s needed.

    What I’d like to see is rules regarding the extra smacks and pushes at the end of plays addressed. There seems to be more of that kind of stuff occurring. This taunting penalty is just a red-herring insomuch as its a silly happening. That with the way excessive celebration is far too stringent.

  13. I love the taunting rule…act like you’ve been there…score the touchdown and go to the sidelines.

    This is the type of reason why I watch college football and don’t want the NFL anymore. The NFL is a circus.

    Good job by the NCAA. It’s up to Coach Kelly to teach these kids to get into the endzone, toss the ball to the ref and then jump around on the sidelines all they want.

  14. re: usc. i would like to think they are waiting for 4/23 when reggie will finally be deposed. the ncaa has requested a transcript already.

    the jake locker penalty was against byu not usc. no big deal.

    i can see it already next year in “the prison” or big house. cierre wood busts a long run. he high steps away from that last defender at the 10 yard line for the score only to have it called back by honest big televen refs for high stepping.

    did they not have this rule when john carlson was penalized for waving his hand for a first down.


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