John Adams: Taunting rule may go too far

John Adams

The worst-case scenario for the next college football championship game would begin with a high step and end with a flag.

In the excitement of the moment and safely distanced from defenders, a touchdown-bound runner would high step his way from the 5-yard-line into the end zone for a game-winning, championship-deciding score. By his third step, the field would be littered with yellow flags. The touchdown wouldn’t count. An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty would be assessed from the 5.

And the championship would go to the other team.

That’s an extreme example of how the NCAA’s new taunting rule could impact the next season. In the past, touchdown taunts and end-zone celebrations also resulted in 15-yard penalties. But the scores counted.

Players still will celebrate at their own risk under the new rule. Yet the risk is so much greater. Too great, perhaps.

Having a championship decided by a holding call or a false-start penalty is one thing. But having it determined by an exuberant touchdown-maker who can’t resist celebrating his achievement in the face of an opponent might seem like overkill, especially when the celebration isn’t as obvious as a high step.

No one can debate the intent of spiking the football at the feet of a beaten opponent in the end zone. Other celebrations are more grey than black-and-white.

Could a team lose the national championship on an end zone salute? A two-second pose?

John Wright, a Knoxville-based SEC official, says conference officials won’t be “nitpicky.”

“If somebody turns a flip or flips a bird at somebody, a team should be penalized,” he said. “But if somebody does something borderline, we will not call it. Everybody in the stadium will know (that it was an unsportsmanlike act) if we call it.

“The way we have been told (by the SEC), these things have to jump out at you. If a guy stands over somebody and beats his chest, we know that’s a foul.”

Steve Shaw, the supervisor of SEC football officials, has made the new rule a point of emphasis in off-season meetings. The group will convene again in Birmingham, Ala., in mid-July for their final preparation.

“We’ve watched a lot of videotape,” he said. “The goal is to get everybody on the same page.

We want to use good judgment. We don’t want to be too technical.”

Maybe SEC officials will take a common-sense approach to the rule and punish only clearly flagrant acts. But what about officials in other conferences? The old celebration rule certainly wasn’t enforced uniformly.

Remember last year’s Pinstripe Bowl? Kansas State’s Adrian Hilburn scored on a 30-yard touchdown run to pull his team within two points of Syracuse with 1:13 to play.

The touchdown was followed with a brief salute, directed at the fans behind the Syracuse bench. An official didn’t approve. He flagged Hilburn and penalized the Wildcats 15 yards before their two-point conversion attempt. When the conversion failed, Syracuse only had to recover an attempted onside kick to secure the victory.

Tough way to lose a game. An even tougher loss could occur under the new rule.

Don’t get the wrong idea. The rule wasn’t the work of bureaucrats. It was a coaches call.

“Absolutely,” Shaw said. “They wanted this rule.”

Their thinking: Players who might not have been deterred by a 15-yard, post-touchdown penalty will restrain themselves from taunting when six points is at stake.

That makes sense. But nonsense sometimes prevails in the light-headed exhilaration of a touchdown.

The exhilaration won’t last long if the touchdown doesn’t count.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 69

dvols writes:

lagarret blount did it right! thats what you get for taunting!

greatest running back ever just handed the ball to the ref. barry sanders!

Caspian writes:

Like the old saying goes, "Act like you've been there before." And, I might add, like you expect to be there again.

murrayvol writes:

I beg to differ with John Wright. Some officials are hardwired nitpickers.

alvol writes:

simply follow the rules. it's not that complicated, john

CoverOrange writes:

The rule wasn’t the work of bureaucrats. It was a coaches call. “Absolutely,” Shaw said. “They wanted this rule.”

Are you telling me coaches need a rule to persuade their players to do what he wants? Sad commentary today.

orange71 writes:

beware little 11. the probability that shaw and his henchmen shank alabama for this "infraction"? between 0.0 and 0.00. the probability that shaw and his henchmen shank the little 11 when playing alabama? between 0.99 and 1.00.

tree_em_smokey writes:

I'm just afraid we might see some of those "borderline" calls flaged against certain teams, of whom the refs ( in certain games) are partial to. That's what will suck. It will happen....many times this year across the nation. Bet on it. GBO!!!!

62vol writes:

A rule that needs no subjective interpretion is th only way to go. If the rule is that calling any type of attention to yourself is an infraction then we will have less argument. High stepping is definately in that category and also childish.

TheOpinion writes:

So lets say that a business man closes a deal for his business worth 10million dollars. And as soon as he gets off the call or out of the meeting with papers signed he does a fist pump, calls his friends, and screams out of excitement. Is that unprofessional? No, not at all. Its human emotion, we celebrate when something good happens. If we're going to punish a kid for celebrating a game-winning touchdown shouldn't we punish the kid who slumps his shoulders after a play goes against him or his team? What about the fans? When a play scores that vital touchdown and the fans go wild should we penalize them for taunting the other team, the other fans, and coaches? How does this rule apply to kickers? If the ball crosses the upright and is a game-winning FG and the kid goes wild, does the FG not count? What about defensive plays? If a CB knocks down a hailmary on the last second of the game and starts jumping up and down? Do we just say "hey you can't do that, that's taunting and for that we're just going to say the WR caught the ball for a TD." This rule is simply a joke and I'm not sure that its lack of humor would even qualify it as a joke. If a kid earns a touchdown he should be allowed to celebrate. That's the point of sports...to win. If we didn't celebrate winning then what would be the point of playing sports? Just to get out and run around for 3 hours and then call it a day? Why do cities throw parades for teams that win championships? Its very un-sportsman like according to this rule because its taunting all the other fans whose team didn't win that title. We all know what being un-sportsman like really means. But we chose to take it a step farther with this rule to ensure we are politically correct. Well sometimes being politically incorrect is human nature and that's just fine.

govols1234567 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Slash huh? Thats actually a pretty tight nickname... I have to be honest. Even though we did lose and he was humbled. I was thinking the other day, If Bray had just cried a little more he probably could have got an endorsement deal with kleenex like Tearbow

VOLliven2it writes:

in response to TheOpinion:

So lets say that a business man closes a deal for his business worth 10million dollars. And as soon as he gets off the call or out of the meeting with papers signed he does a fist pump, calls his friends, and screams out of excitement. Is that unprofessional? No, not at all. Its human emotion, we celebrate when something good happens. If we're going to punish a kid for celebrating a game-winning touchdown shouldn't we punish the kid who slumps his shoulders after a play goes against him or his team? What about the fans? When a play scores that vital touchdown and the fans go wild should we penalize them for taunting the other team, the other fans, and coaches? How does this rule apply to kickers? If the ball crosses the upright and is a game-winning FG and the kid goes wild, does the FG not count? What about defensive plays? If a CB knocks down a hailmary on the last second of the game and starts jumping up and down? Do we just say "hey you can't do that, that's taunting and for that we're just going to say the WR caught the ball for a TD." This rule is simply a joke and I'm not sure that its lack of humor would even qualify it as a joke. If a kid earns a touchdown he should be allowed to celebrate. That's the point of sports...to win. If we didn't celebrate winning then what would be the point of playing sports? Just to get out and run around for 3 hours and then call it a day? Why do cities throw parades for teams that win championships? Its very un-sportsman like according to this rule because its taunting all the other fans whose team didn't win that title. We all know what being un-sportsman like really means. But we chose to take it a step farther with this rule to ensure we are politically correct. Well sometimes being politically incorrect is human nature and that's just fine.

Chill your keyboard Opinion. Anyone with any common sense will NEVER get this penalty called on them. All it takes is some class as athletes once seemed to have more of.
Yes it will be nit-picky and yes some officials are off their rockers when it comes to certain teams. But there will be nothing which can be done when it occurs. Coaches should help their players know what is and what is not acceptable celebration. The thought that a penalty in the end zone could undo a TD shows how ridiculous rule-making can get. It seems relatively simple when it steps across the line. If anyone has questions, go back and look at film of the 80s Miami Hurricanes. They were the ones who brought this to the forefront.

VOLliven2it writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

BodeanenoVol---I have to agree with you on this and hope Mr. Bray will unslash both his play and the neck thing. My guess is he will be in big trouble if he starts that stuff this fall. As for losing the game, he will have his share of wins as well. Wait, Watch, and see.

MusicCityVol writes:

The taunting rule goes way too far. Dooley and staff should set the tone early with this year's team and let them know it won't be tolerated. Especially the incoming freshman.

Checkerboard Chatting with Pat Martin
http://checkerboardchatter.blogspot.c...

orange71 writes:

VOLliven2it say: "Yes it will be nit-picky and yes some officials are off their rockers when it comes to certain teams. But there will be nothing which can be done when it occurs."
There is something that the 11 dwarfs can do if the ref problem persists: issue the ultomato: "take the SEC office out of birmingham-tuscaloosa" or suffer the consequence of the dwarfs bolting for a realignment with florida state, virginia tech, etc. alabama has been handed far too many victories by shawshank and his predecessors.

vut56#231073 writes:

Holding, no score; motion, no score; off sides, no score; taunting, no score. What is the problem? As others suggest, disciplined teams and disciplined players will have few problems with this. I like Ole John Madden's quote regarding discipline (making a dig at the late Tom Landry, a pretty buttoned up disciplinarian): "I think discipline is be being able to line up and not jump offsides."

The team can jump around all they wish after the extra point, and they are on the sidelines.

Further, howling at the moon and chest thumping after a sack makes no sense...when your team is getting drubbed; think about it.

The roar of 100,000 fans and canons going off should suffice for the occasion of simply running the play, as expected.

Volomatic writes:

in response to TheOpinion:

So lets say that a business man closes a deal for his business worth 10million dollars. And as soon as he gets off the call or out of the meeting with papers signed he does a fist pump, calls his friends, and screams out of excitement. Is that unprofessional? No, not at all. Its human emotion, we celebrate when something good happens. If we're going to punish a kid for celebrating a game-winning touchdown shouldn't we punish the kid who slumps his shoulders after a play goes against him or his team? What about the fans? When a play scores that vital touchdown and the fans go wild should we penalize them for taunting the other team, the other fans, and coaches? How does this rule apply to kickers? If the ball crosses the upright and is a game-winning FG and the kid goes wild, does the FG not count? What about defensive plays? If a CB knocks down a hailmary on the last second of the game and starts jumping up and down? Do we just say "hey you can't do that, that's taunting and for that we're just going to say the WR caught the ball for a TD." This rule is simply a joke and I'm not sure that its lack of humor would even qualify it as a joke. If a kid earns a touchdown he should be allowed to celebrate. That's the point of sports...to win. If we didn't celebrate winning then what would be the point of playing sports? Just to get out and run around for 3 hours and then call it a day? Why do cities throw parades for teams that win championships? Its very un-sportsman like according to this rule because its taunting all the other fans whose team didn't win that title. We all know what being un-sportsman like really means. But we chose to take it a step farther with this rule to ensure we are politically correct. Well sometimes being politically incorrect is human nature and that's just fine.

I hear where you're coming from and it makes sense. If i were to do something worth celebrating, I would celebrate. But are the points only going to come off the board for celebrating before the touchdown. Are celebration penalty's after a touchdown going to stay the same, or are the points still coming off. If the quarterback gets exited and does a Brett Favre fist pump while the WR is running still, will he get flagged and the points come off. Can we get an exact posting of the new rule so we can see.

agentorange writes:

i don't have to read anything. the rule is horrible. if the defense can't stop a guy doing cartwheels into the end zone then that's it's problem. the fun bunch was awesome and should be allowed. everybody is too P***y and pc these days.

agentorange writes:

the refs don't call fair games anyway and this just gives them another dumb rule to keep a team in the hunt when they need to do so.

bigsteve92 writes:

ok not all celebration is tauting sometime you are celebrating cause you scored. if we flag people for scoring a touch down then flag someone every time they get a sack on the qb and do a celebration move. how bout just looking at them wrong cause you delivered a big hit. just cause you are celebrating doesn't always make it tauting. don't we all celebrate the hard work we did to achieve a goal sometimes

CroKev writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Man, what is it with Vandy and Gator fans? It must be REALLY boring in Nashville and Gainesville...

HallowedHill writes:

Its a real shame that the people who make the rules for college football don't seem to have ever played or even like the sport.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

Adams who cares what you gotta say,your useless as tits on a bore hog

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to InDestruCtible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

little z you forgot to mention future first ballot hall of famer

GSP69 writes:

Once upon a time if some guy taunted, he became a target. Remember what goes on in the piles. He did not last long.

Political correctness amuck!

mrtruvol#207043 writes:

Isn't this the same officiating crew (SEC) who threw the flag in the GA vs. LSU game a little while back, which ultmately gave the game to LSU and changed GA's season.

FatherVol writes:

Taunting another player I get. Saluting the fans in teh stands of one's own team is not taunting. It seems to me taunting has to be "directed" toward a player of the opposing team. Celebration is not "taunting." Are we saying that players are man enough to let their opponents celebrate a special moment in a game? C'mon!

bwaldron writes:

Even given problems with its consistent application, the rule works for me.

Vol43 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well look who's in town. Ole BooooDeeean. Country as a turnip green. Here's some advice sweetlips. Drop the shtick "Oh, wait, he did lose the game. Never mind" thing. It's getting old and tired. At least try something different. (What a DA).

OrangePride writes:

Well then, the coaches are just wrong. Unless the taunting took place before the touchdown was scored, then the points should go up. And unless the taunting is done to another player, then let the young men have just a little fun. I'm not for all the group celebrations and excessive, "it's all about me and aren't I great" carryings on that once took place. But a simple salute or a chest pound followed by a point to the sky is harmless and in no way is unsportsmanlike. Even last years little "going loco" signs were not unsportsmanlike. Or how about the "throat cut" sign we saw? Is that going to get the TD called back? This is overkill and will detract from the color of the game and unltimately cost some teams victories they have rightfully owned. BAD IDEA!

OrangePride writes:

And one other point now that I'm thinking. One thing that I think SHOULD get an unsportsmanlike penalty is this constant baiting of the referees by athletes using a "throwing the flag" motion to signal they think they were fouled. To my mind that is just an attempt to influence the call of the play and should not be allowed. Let the official call the game and you make the play. Just my thought.

Vol43 writes:

Dang booodeeean you were here late last night and here you are again. You love us don't you? Can't get enough of good ole Rocky Top.

allvols4life writes:

in response to OrangePride:

And one other point now that I'm thinking. One thing that I think SHOULD get an unsportsmanlike penalty is this constant baiting of the referees by athletes using a "throwing the flag" motion to signal they think they were fouled. To my mind that is just an attempt to influence the call of the play and should not be allowed. Let the official call the game and you make the play. Just my thought.

I can agree with your feelings on this one. I hate to see an athlete jump up and start that motion. Its the same thing in basketball. I can't stand to see players whine about every call or non-call that goes against them. Just play the game. I understand that referees will miss some calls, but an athlete begging for a call will not help the athlete in most cases.

Vol43 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Naval, is sec1 aka SUC1, still planning on whipping your butt or has he changed his mind? My guess is he came to his mind (if that's possible). Go VOLS!

U.S.S. Rigel AF-58

Outdated writes:

Making a good play is all you have to do to impress fans...
This rule is long past due...

RollTideJoe writes:

in response to orange71:

beware little 11. the probability that shaw and his henchmen shank alabama for this "infraction"? between 0.0 and 0.00. the probability that shaw and his henchmen shank the little 11 when playing alabama? between 0.99 and 1.00.

Right. ESPN, Commissioner Slive, and now the SEC officials are all after UT. You people are incredible. Everyone's against you. Whine, whine.

RoadTrip writes:

Why is it too much to ask that good sportsmanship and class return to college athletics? Could it be because those that endorse taunting have their priorities out of whack? It's a game, a sport - not a cage match to the death. Some of you sound like you would enjoy dog or gamecock fights. Get a grip - including you John Adams. Play by the rules. If they taunt in a game changing situation they should be penalized. Don't reward players and teams for being jerks - then maybe the fans will get a clue as well. Are you listening UF trolls?

RollTideJoe writes:

in response to orange71:

VOLliven2it say: "Yes it will be nit-picky and yes some officials are off their rockers when it comes to certain teams. But there will be nothing which can be done when it occurs."
There is something that the 11 dwarfs can do if the ref problem persists: issue the ultomato: "take the SEC office out of birmingham-tuscaloosa" or suffer the consequence of the dwarfs bolting for a realignment with florida state, virginia tech, etc. alabama has been handed far too many victories by shawshank and his predecessors.

Shaw hasn't officiated Alabama games since he graduated there. Paranoia, shafted by the world. That is the Tennessee moniker. Poor you.

Vol43 writes:

in response to RollTideJoe:

Shaw hasn't officiated Alabama games since he graduated there. Paranoia, shafted by the world. That is the Tennessee moniker. Poor you.

I thought you were an alabama fan.

Vol43 writes:

in response to InDestruCtible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Which is #1? A,B,C or D?

Einstein writes:

Emmitt Smith celebrated one touchdown and his Dad told him to act like he had been there before. Emmitt never celebrated another touchdown.

allvols4life writes:

in response to Vol43:

Which is #1? A,B,C or D?

Classic. Very funny!

orangeman1 writes:

So no sticking the ball out, no slowing down(hope noone gets a cramp), no high stepping . I dont personally have a problem with any of that and dont think points should be taken off the board. I think a 15 yd penalty is appropriate punishment, but I guess the players will just have to get used to it and hopefully it wont cost anyone the game. That seems a little too harsh too me.

Vol43 writes:

in response to allvols4life:

Classic. Very funny!

See, the problem with the trolls is that we get all the ones who have been ousted from other football sites (eighty-sixed). They're not exactly the smartest of the bunch. Once the masochists land here, we give 'em what they really want: Pain.

Vol43 writes:

in response to InDestruCtible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm sorry, I was distracted. Please explain once more and go slowly please. Thanks for your help.

Vol43 writes:

in response to Vol43:

I'm sorry, I was distracted. Please explain once more and go slowly please. Thanks for your help.

Waiting.

My apologies to the real fans. I'm just waiting for the weather to clear so I can make it to the golf course. Meanwhile, it's kinda fun toying with the trolls.

murrayvol writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Taunting is in the eye of the beholder Duke....and some officials will see (as they have seen) taunting where there is nothing more than celebration.

allvols4life writes:

in response to Vol43:

Waiting.

My apologies to the real fans. I'm just waiting for the weather to clear so I can make it to the golf course. Meanwhile, it's kinda fun toying with the trolls.

No apologies needed for me. I too like to mess around with the trolls and get them all riled up. I know, some others say stop feeding the trolls and they will disappear but it is fun sometimes to stoke the fires a bit.

murrayvol writes:

in response to FormerMarine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

DC is the pitcher. Bodie (aka zz) is the catcher.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Vol43:

Waiting.

My apologies to the real fans. I'm just waiting for the weather to clear so I can make it to the golf course. Meanwhile, it's kinda fun toying with the trolls.

Not sure I'd call it fun vol43.

More like dealing with a tar baby.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to Vol43:

Well look who's in town. Ole BooooDeeean. Country as a turnip green. Here's some advice sweetlips. Drop the shtick "Oh, wait, he did lose the game. Never mind" thing. It's getting old and tired. At least try something different. (What a DA).

Bodeane is litte gayta z also known as dc and probably also suc 1. Amazing that he/she responds to themselves

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