Costly celebration penalties too excessive

It’s that time for the NCAA football rulebook to undergo some serious changes.
And no, I’m not talking about the inevitable termination of the BCS, although anyone carrying a University of Miami ID certainly wouldn’t be opposed to such a thing.
What I am talking about is Rule 9, Section 2, Article 2 of the NCAA Football Rules, or in simpler terms, the two inches dealing with “excessive celebrations.”
After a score or any other play, the player in possession immediately must return the ball to an official or leave it near the dead ball spot. This prohibits kicking, throwing or carrying the ball any distance that requires an official to retrieve it, spiking the ball to the ground, throwing a ball high into the air, or any other unsportsmanlike action that delays the game.
Three delay of game penalties were called during Saturday’s Miami-Florida game. The first one, an infraction against UM’s Devin Hester for taking his helmet off in the end zone after housing a 97-yard kickoff return, is covered in another section of the rulebook.
The other two, against Miami’s Ryan Moore for bowing in the end zone and Florida’s DeShawn Wynn after the running back high stepped in the end zone and quickly pointed in the direction of Brock Berlin, are not explicitly covered here.
On Tuesday, coach Larry Coker said he would have thrown the yellow hankie on two of the three situations, leaving out the Moore bow.
“Personally, I don’t think that it should be called,” Coker said. “But is the high-stepping in the end zone a penalty? If you call one, you have to call the other.”
Or, how about this? If you don’t call one, you don’t have to call the other.
The officials in the NCAA office, as well as the SEC ones at the game Saturday, clearly do not comprehend the effect of a football game on one’s emotions, especially one involving a rivalry. Football games thrive on adrenaline. When making a big play, especially in a game against a bitter rival, it is natural to get excited and show a little bit of emotion.
A “little bit” is my exact words to describe the alleged excessive celebrations Saturday. Considering that quotes before the game included threats to “make Berlin’s mouth bleed,” I would consider high-stepping and bowing for a split second examples of pretty good sportsmanship.
Apparently the NCAA doesn’t think so, and has instructed their officials to penalize teams 15 yards for making such an action, even if, as in Moore’s case, it would negate an opportunity to go for a game-tying two-point conversion. Somehow, I can guarantee you that had Miami lost the game, the Hurricanes would be FedEx-ing the tape to the NCAA office first thing Monday morning.
In addition, I don’t understand how a bow in the end zone breaks the NCAA rules. We aren’t talking about Sebastian the Ibis running on to the field and off it five minutes later. We are talking about a bow that took no longer than two seconds. I don’t care whether the Flash or Eric Gregg is wearing the zebra outfit, two seconds isn’t going to make a difference.
So, am I against any type of excessive celebration penalty? Of course not. However, just because a player takes off their helmet, spikes a football, or bows in the end zone doesn’t mean they exhibit bad sportsmanship.
The NCAA needs to open up their eyes and realize the nature of football, especially rivalry games that go down to the wire, and act accordingly to the situation. Coker can certainly tell you why.
“You don’t want to take enthusiasm out of the game,” Coker said. “Enthusiasm is very important.”
Jeremy Marks-Peltz is the sports director of WVUM. The opinions of him and the rest of the WVUM staff can be heard on Ibis Sports Weekly, every Friday at 6 PM.

September 12, 2003


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.