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WBE confronts the Issues Of The Day: taunting, the Tide


If you missed yesterday’s conference expansion post, I’m responding to a few of the pressing issues that have popped up in college football discussions over the past couple of weeks. First up today:

That taunting rule. I’ve come to think of the debate surrounding the NCAA’s decision to potentially revoke touchdowns for preliminary celebration as FIREHORSE vs. Tony Barnhart. It’s fun that way.

Also, that way we can pretend there’s actual debate when, really, Barnhart is a lone loon spitting into a wind that represents the entire rest of the college football universe. He’s the only writer I ever came across that wrote anything like this:

That is why the NCAA rules committee is correct in changing the rule so that a taunting/unsportsmanlike foul that is committed during a touchdown play negates the score.

“Oh, they are taking points off the board!” I heard someone cry on the radio.

No, the points are never on the board unless you have an excited scoreboard keeper who is not paying attention. What all of us who follow college football want is for the rules to be consistent and for the officials to apply them consistently. If a block in the back or a hold occurs at the five-yard line with a player running in for the score, the score does not count. The penalty is marked off from the spot of the foul.

Same thing here. If a player at the five-yard line slows down and looks back to a defender and shows him the ball and taunts, then that is where the foul occurred. Previously, the other team had the option of taking the penalty on the extra point or the ensuing kickoff. That’s inconsistent.

So now that rule is consistent with other penalties.

Here’s the weird thing: I sorta … kinda … half-heartedly … agree with him.

Not with the general thesis of the post or the “NCAA got it right” headline. But that a particularly egregious taunting flag should result in the nullification of the score. Yes, surely by next week I’ll be yelling at those damn kids to get off my lawn, but I still believe that some scintilla of sportsmanship is important enough to our sport that a player who crosses the line between celebrating his success to mocking his opponent deserves to have a touchdown taken away. (To be fair, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a celebration like this.)

Here’s the problem: that’s how I feel in theory. Unlike Barnhart, I have absolutely zero interest in seeing this theory put into practice. In theory, officials are able to apply the half-ounce of common sense necessary to distinguish between the kind of taunting that’s flag-worthy and the kind that’s innocuous fun. In theory, officials would understand that whatever the rulebook might say, revoking a score for celebration should be treated as a nuclear option only to be used in the event of the most flagrant of violations. In theory, the NCAA should write the rulebook under the assumption that officials should be treated like adults.

But we know that especially where celebration penalties are concerned, officials shouldn’t be treated like adults. We’ve tried that, and what we got was penalties for Jake Locker throwing a ball in the air and A.J. Green … actually, I’m still not sure what A.J. Green in that LSU game last year. The officials, they have shown us over the past few seasons, must be treated like children. Or more specifically, like the teenager headed off to college who’s asking his parents for a credit card. You can talk about using it “only in emergencies” ’til you’re blue in the face, but you know it’s going towards a 1 a.m. pizza delivery sooner rather than later.

In the same way, the NCAA can’t approve this rule without knowing it’s going to wind up at the center of a firestorm of controversy in a matter of months.  If I had even a mustard seed’s worth of faith in officials to apply it property, I’d support it. Which is why what FIREHORSE should be enraged about isn’t the rule itself–it’s the state of officiating itself that makes it such a colossal mistake.

Rescheduling. If you stick to Auburn sites and only rarely venture out into the rest of the SEC bloggitysphere, you’ve missed an enjoyable dust-up over over the prospect of the SEC accommodating Alabama’s request  to rearrange the league’s 2010 football schedule. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Tide faces six teams this year that will be coming off of a bye week. They’ve asked to not face so many. This recently drew responses one two three four from around the league and counter-responses one two (along with tons in various comment threads) from the ‘Bama faction.

The peculiar thing about this argument is that both sides are, essentially, correct.

Because should the SEC rearrange the schedule for the Tide? Hell no they shouldn’t. The schedules have been in place for months and in some nonconference cases, years. It’s now 3 and a half months before the season starts. So we’re going to inconvenience not one but two teams who have done nothing wrong just because one other team thinks it might be at a disadvantage that might not even be there? Uh, no. Why should Arkansas or Auburn have to bear the burden of the SEC’s mistake? They shouldn’t, and they’re well within their rights to have told the league (and the Tide) to screw off and come back next year. Alabama fans can (and should) hold a grudge against the league office for never taking a step back and saying “whoa, this might be not fair,” but that’s a made bed they’re just going to have to lie in.

That said: should Alabama have gone to the league and complained? Of course they should have. What did they have to lose? Let’s say the league follows the proper course of action and says no for 2010; that hardly makes anything worse for Alabama. And the league (and conference A.D.’s) have already unanimously agreed to ensure this problem won’t rear its ugly head in future seasons. Which only the most fervent of Tide-haters would argue shouldn’t be the case; maybe bye weeks aren’t that big a deal, but if it was Auburn in the Tide’s situation, I’d want Jay Jacobs raising some bloody hell. It’s fair to call the Tide out for whining, because there’s no a defending national champion can complain about the difficulty of its schedule and have it not be a whine, but it’s also only telling half the story if you don’t note that the Tide would have been idiots not to get their whine on. It’s a smart whine, a whine with purpose, and I don’t begrudge them for it.

If the SEC does cave and switch a 2010 game around, the problem won’t be the squeaky wheel–it’ll be the incompetents in the league office who made it squeak in the first place and then greased it just because it wouldn’t shut up.

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