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Post Narrow taunting rule just one of several proposed changes

Friday February 12, 2010

The NCAA Football Rules Committee has had its annual meeting, and their endorsement of one key rule change for the 2011 season is causing quite an uproar this morning. Specifically:

The NCAA Football Rules Committee endorsed a proposal Wednesday that penalizes unsportsmanlike conduct as a live-ball foul beginning in the 2011 season. The change would mean, for example, that if a player makes a taunting gesture to an opponent on the way to scoring a touchdown, the flag would nullify the score and penalize the offending team from the spot of the foul.

It seems like a pretty narrow focus. Consider: taunting/unsportsmanlike penalties after a non-scoring play (say, a sack) have resulted and will continue to result in a 15-yard penalty after the play. No change there. How about unsportsmanlike penalties after you score? No, “penalties for dead-ball misconduct fouls (for example, unsportsmanlike behavior after the player crosses the goal line) would continue to be assessed on the ensuing kickoff or the extra point/two point conversion attempt.” No change there. The only time a score would be taken off the board is when players make “a taunting gesture to an opponent on the way to scoring a touchdown.” Think Deion Sanders high-stepping it down the sideline.

In other words, this new rule wouldn’t have changed a thing about A.J. Green’s penalty last year. That sham of a penalty occurred in the end zone, so the score would continue to stand under the new rule. The rule is dumb, but its application will be much, much narrower than people seem to think. Most excessive celebration happens after a score, and that’s specifically exempted. Think about it this way – when was the last time you saw someone draw a taunting foul during a live play? Those are the only situations to which this rule applies. The misapplication of the unsportsmanlike penalty is reason enough to reconsider the whole thing, but we’re not going to see that many scores come off the board.

If there’s a gray area where we’ll see the most controversy, it’s on plays where the ballcarrier dives into the endzone. We’ve seen cases where there was doubt whether the player dove to avoid a defender or was just showboating. Under this new rule the infraction technically occurs in the field of play, so the ball would come back to the 15 or so. (Yes, I’m thinking of a certain player and game too.)

What we might see more of is ejections.

In these cases [when the contact is clearly flagrant and dangerous], the committee is instructing officials to eject student-athletes more frequently when warranted. The group will distribute several video examples to officials, coaches and conference administrators to educate and clarify what types of plays should result in an ejection. Additionally, any flagrant foul will automatically trigger a review by the offending player’s conference.

There are several other rules changes bundled with the one getting all of the attention. All of these rules are still proposals and still must be NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. Some of the highlights:

Call it the “Tebow Rule?” Players wearing eye black must now keep it solid black – no Bible verses, shout-outs to the home area code, or other messages. I wonder whether this applies to messages written elsewhere on the body. It might be more fitting to call this the Pyror Rule and not the Tebow Rule. Bible verses and area codes are one thing, but using the eyeblack to make more controversial statements might be the motivation for this rule.

– Any injured player, including those with a concussion or showing signs of a concussion, must be cleared by an “appropriate medical professional” before returning to the game. The rule though leaves it up to the school to define what an “appropriate medical professional” is. Mike Leach probably isn’t what they have in mind.

Teams will be allowed to have TV monitors up in the booth. The home team must ensure that feeds and equipment are identical for both teams. While I doubt many coaches will have time to kick the feet up and enjoy Uncle Verne’s delightful description of the action unfolding in front of them (if there’s sound at all), implementation will be interesting. Will teams choose to provide the actual television feed to the booths or just use the feed that the rest of the stadium sees on the scoreboard video screen? You can imagine the benefits of replay aiding the decision whether or not to use a timeout to force a review.

There will be a pregame DMZ. The committee recommended that no players allowed between the 45-yard lines beginning 60 minutes before kickoff during warmups.

Raise those hemlines! Discerning teams with an eye on fashion might want to note that there will be no more requirement that pants must cover the knee. Scandalous!

– While they’re revamping kickoff coverage during this offseason, Georgia coaches will note that college football is considering following the lead of the NFL by banning the use of the “wedge” by return teams.

– Punters using the “rugby punt” who run outside of the tackle box are now fair game; they will lose their protection as kickers.

UCLA and USC are no longer outlaws. Both teams can wear contrasting colored jerseys jerseys of color if neither team or conference objects.

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