This week the NCAA announced two major rule changes.
One is the banning of wedge blocking on kickoff returns, which, like the NFL, is a good rule change to reduce injuries.
The second rule change, however, is not nearly as logical nor likable.
The NCAA will be penalizing teams for taunting this year, and could potentially take a touchdown off the board if a team taunts during the scoring play. This creates a myriad of problems—not the least of which is the subjective nature of taunting. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation:
Late in a game at Husky Stadium, the Dawgs are rallying against a powerful, ranked opponent. Jake Locker breaks free around the left side, scrambles into the end zone with just a few seconds left in the game, and scores! In his youthful, collegiate exuberance, he throws the ball over his head, nowhere near an opponent. Tweet! In comes a yellow flag, penalizing Locker for taunting, and removes the touchdown.
As you Husky fans know, that last paragraph is not terribly hypothetical. The 2008 win-less Huskies played a phenomenal game against BYU, and in the last seconds, a referee decided Locker had taunted BYU and penalized 15 yards on the extra point, which was missed, and the Huskies lost by a point. These are the types of judgments that can ruin college football.
Can you imagine if a similar mistake was made and they take points off the board in a big national rivalry game—Ohio State v. Michigan, Florida v. Georgia, Alabama v. Auburn, or Texas v. Oklahoma.
Just look at last year’s Georgia v LSU game for a similar mistake on a bigger stage.
My personal belief is to “let the kids play.” I can see the N o-F un-L eague believing taunting is an issue they try to control, but at the collegiate level, we are asking kids to stop acting like—well—kids.
On top of that, we are asking part-time officials, who have enough trouble with just the basic calls, to make a subjective judgment on what a taunt is. Sure, there may be an occasional mean-spirited taunt, but the vast majority of what will be called will be based on a misunderstanding by the officials.
The NCAA wants to come from the “act like you’ve been there before” old school approach. The kids and players want to come from the “playing with passion” style. There should be a balance in the middle. Out of the 7,000+ collegiate players, only a couple hundred will make it to the NFL.
All college players play for their school—driven through years of blood, sweat, and tears by pure emotion and desire. Having part-time referees make a subjective judgment on their expression of that emotion—and taking points off the board—will only be bad for the game of college football.