COMMENTARY | New taunting rules create new problems

April 20, 2011 

In its infinite wisdom, the NCAA has decided it’s going to outlaw taunting in college football.

On the surface that seems a commendable act. No one likes to see one team show up another ... err! Unless you are an LSU fan spending Saturday night in a stadium nicknamed Death Valley and putting a whipping on Florida or Alabama.

The new rule has enough flaws to fill a playbook.

The organization apparently feels it’s not so bad to taunt a team once you get to the end zone. But ridiculing an opponent on the way to the sacred territory deserves a penalty just short of putting a football team on the guillotine.

In 2011, the new rule will take away your touchdown if you are deemed guilty of taunting before you cross the goal line.

So officials, who have a hard enough time making pass interference and holding calls, now have to judge whether a player’s hop, skip and jump into the end zone constitutes football’s version of a felonious act.

In fairness, the NCAA should require its football officials to intern for the CIA so they can learn the art of mind reading. And every good coach should now carry a copy of the U.S. Constitution on the sideline.

Officiating is difficult in itself, particularly in an SEC Saturday night game, during which 80,000-plus fans are often in a temporary state of contagious insanity.

Those SEC games are often grudge matches looking to settle famiThose SEC games are often grudge matches looking to settle family disputes that go back generations. So what‘s to prevent an innocent 19-year-old from cart-wheeling into the end zone believing he just exacted revenge for a scorned great-grandfather.

Emotions are erupting on a volcanic scale, and we are asking officials to act with the precision of a math professor.

The potential for abuse, chicanery and simple stupidity is infinite.

A receiver catches a pass way beyond the nearest defensive back and about a yard or two before he reaches the goal line somersaults into the end zone.

Did he leave his feet at the one or was his foot on the line? Should we consider that protocol is the furthest thing from the mind of a 19- or 20-year-old running his way into history?

The old taunting rule confused officials and gave Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel some of their best material. Their TV ratings are going to soar the first time an official’s view of morality determines the outcome of a game.

Take the Kansas State-Syracuse Pinstripe Bowl last year when a Wildcats receiver caught a touchdown pass to bring his team within two points in the final minutes. He gave what most people thought was a harmless salute.

One official apparently saw it as a scandalous display of human behavior and flagged him with an unsportsmanlike penalty. It forced K-State to attempt a two-point conversion from 18 yards out instead of three, and it missed.

K-State shares a special relationship with nearby Fort Riley, Kan., home of the Army’s Big Red One, and this could’ve been nothing more than a salute to them. During the game, a Syracuse player stood in front of a camera after a touchdown with his hands forming a Syracuse Orange O without getting a penalty.

On that same day in the Music City Bowl, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Brey threw a TD pass and gave the crowd a double-throat slash. On two other Vols’ TDs, receivers danced and teammates leaped over them without a referee reaching for his yellow hanky.

Washington quarterback Jake Locker once scored on a run with three seconds left to put his team within a point. In the excitement, he flipped the ball over his head when he was in the end zone and received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, which cost his team the game.

Coaches argue refs should use discretion and good judgment. But that’s putting the game back in their hands, which is something nobody wants.

Seems this new taunting rule is like giving a driver a year or two in jail for going 10 miles over the speed limit.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.

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