Berry Tramel: Football officials told to cool it on celebration calls

by Berry Tramel Published: July 11, 2011

Rivera said the tipping point was not the Pinstripe Bowl, but the 2008 Washington-BYU game. Remember that one? UW quarterback Jake Locker scored on a 3-yard run with two seconds left in the game, drawing the Huskies within 28-27. Locker flipped the ball into the air in celebration, drawing a 15-yard penalty. BYU then blocked Washington's extra point.

“Most coordinators thought they should not have made that call,” Rivera said. “We swung the pendulum ... officials started looking for things. The pendulum has swung back. Don't inject yourself into the game.

“In the past, the feeling was, when in doubt, call it. Now, it's just the opposite. When in doubt, don't call it.”

Wow. Isn't that refreshing? Absolute common sense on an emotional issue.

Anderson wants his officials to even be wary of the new spot-foul rule. Don't guess on where the ball is when the penalty occurs. Unless it's absolutely clear that the excessive celebration came before the ball reached the goal line, give the team the touchdown.

“When there's a question, make it a dead ball,” said David Warden of Henryetta, assistant coordinator of officiating for the Big 12.

Common sense is the prevailing theme. Anderson hammered home that message all day long.

If there's a question about a flagrant foul vs. fighting, make it a flagrant foul. “We want the fights to be the thrilla in Manila,” Anderson said.

If an open runner lifts the ball in celebration as he approaches the goal line, then leave the flag in your pocket. If a player flips the ball over his shoulder in glee, let it go. A first-down signal by a receiver who just made a nifty catch? Be lenient.

“What we're looking for are acts that are clearly delayed and not part of a spontaneous enthusiasm by the player,” Anderson said.

Some things are always a penalty. The throat slash. Tossing the ball at an opponent. Pointing the ball at an opponent.

But whereas in recent years all celebration was deemed excessive, college football now seems committed to making distinctions.

Anderson recalled a Texas A&M game on Armistice Day, with a ton of soldiers in the stands. A player scored a touchdown, saluted the troops and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“We've got the U.S. Army there, and we flag his ass,” Anderson said. “On Nov. 11 to boot.

“That's where the rules committee acknowledged setting you guys up. It just wasn't a good common-sense rule.”

College football has taken an excellent step. Excessive celebration is still on the books, and the penalty could be more severe than ever. But in a sport known for its spirit, there's still a little room for enjoying the fruits of autumn glory.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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