Taking the fun out of football

Published: Monday, June 6, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 6, 2011 at 12:08 a.m.

In recent years, excessive celebration penalties in the end zone have been more of a nuisance for coaches than anything else.

But starting this fall, those flags for hip-wagging or high-stepping could become game changers.

Instead of being penalized 15 yards on the kickoff, the NCAA has instituted this year that points can be taken off the board for any celebration in the end zone that refs deem unsportsmanlike.

Of course, anyone who watched ESPN's 30-for-30 "The U" will understand why the NCAA first put the excessive celebration rules in place in 1991. While the cameras loved the Hurricanes' theatrics in the early 1990s, the act didn't go over too well with opposing teams.

In the 20 years since, the more sanitized, sportsmanlike version of college football has remained immensely popular. But it's also given referees too much power in the outcome of the game when making subjective decisions. Just last season, refs flagged Georgia's A.J. Green because they thought Green was pointing to the stands after making a TD catch late against LSU. The field position LSU received on the following kickoff allowed the Tigers to drive for the game-winning score at the end of regulation.

Refs will have even more power in the outcome of games if points are involved.

We sometimes forget that these are 18-to-22 year olds playing a game they love. As long as they aren't doing anything over the line to taunt an opponent, shouldn't they be allowed to celebrate their accomplishments?

And think about this Gator fans. Recently inducted College Football Hall of Famer Carlos Alvarez began a Florida tradition for receivers by throwing his last TD catch at Florida Field into the stands. That tradition was carried on by former Florida receivers Travis McGriff, Andre Caldwell and Aaron Hernandez.

Under the new NCAA rules, all of those TDs would have been wiped out. I'm all for sportsmanship, but aren't we taking some of the fun out football?

Surely, there must be a middle ground somewhere. Your thoughts?

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