STILLWATER — Jeremy Duck is scared.
He loves his Cowboys. Loves making a difference in Cowboy football, as president of OSU's Paddle People. Loves rapping those wooden paddles against the padded sidewalls of Boone Pickens Stadium. Loves having helped OSU form the current sixth-longest homefield winning streak in major college football.
But Big 12 athletic directors passed a rule this week barring artificial noise-makers, and while organizations like the Paddle People were given grandfather clauses and can still pack their paddles to the ‘Pick, no more banging is allowed when opposing offenses are trying to run a play.
“It's going to affect us quite a bit from what we've been doing,” Duck said, starting with Saturday night against Texas. “I feel like we make a huge impact.
“We're being very careful these first few games. We don't want to cause OSU a 15-yard penalty. The consequences are scary.”
I don't know if a Big 12 ref would actually flag the Paddle People. Some might remember the referee at the OSU-Missouri game a year ago, warning the Mizzou band to quit playing as the Cowboys neared the Tiger goal line. No penalty was called, but one was threatened.
The rule is unfortunate timing for OSU. State could use all hands on deck against the 12th-ranked Longhorns.
But it could be worse. The paddles could have been banished. OSU athletic director Mike Holder made a plea to save traditions in some form, and Big 12 ADs agreed.
So now the Paddle People are subject to the same parameters as the bands and the canned music – make all the noise you want, unless the ball is in play or the offense is trying to set up for a play. Then, pipe down.
Duck said the Paddle People might just start slapping the padding with their paws. No rule against that.
“We're going to try to do something,” Duck said. “Keep it loud and try to support the team.”
The official rule was passed Wednesday, effective immediately, “to prohibit the use of artificial noise makers in all Conference sponsored sports in which NCAA rules are silent; and for existing in-stadium traditions to fall under the ‘Band/Audio Play' provisions contained in appropriate Big 12 Conference sport manuals.'”
And dissent comes from the most unlikely of precincts. Former OU tight end star Trent Smith, never bashful to bash all things OSU during his playing days, calls foul on the new rule.
Playing in Stillwater “was awesome,” Smith said. “As a player, that's what made going on the road so much fun. They're stealing part of the soul of college football.”
Boone Pickens Stadium is among the most intimate coliseums in college football. From sideline to retaining wall isn't much more than 10 feet. You get 140 people pounding padding with paddles, and it can be quite the intimidating place.
Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said the rule was passed not because of complaints from other schools, but because questions were asked about potential sponsorships. Clappers, thundersticks, megaphones, even vuvuzelas, those horns that became all the rage during the 2010 World Cup. Schools were wondering how far they could go with artificial noise-makers.
The athletic directors, Burda said, decided “let's just do away with them. Leads to a cleaner game-day environment. Won't have sportsmanship issues.”
That's when Holder stepped in to save the Paddle People, an official student spirit group, formed about 12 years ago and now 140 members strong.
Also wouldn't surprise me if part of the motivation to be more genteel was a nod to West Virginia, a notoriously inhospitable football crowd that has vowed to change its way as it joins the Big 12.
And it's not like the Big 12 is a trailblazer. The SEC in 2010 forged a similar rule. Mississippi State's cowbells, an unbelievably annoying tradition, were banned except during pre-game festivities, halftime, timeouts and after scoring plays.
Mississippi State fans have adjusted. Time for the Paddle People to do the same.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.