The scene: the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, with the Kansas St. Wildcats facing the Syracuse Orange. It's the fourth quarter, with just over a minute remaining. It's been a see-saw game and Kansas State is down by eight.
It's been a tense game, and with the bowl atmosphere, the fans and the teams are excited as it draws to a close. Kansas State has to score a touchdown to have any hope, and then complete a 2-pt conversion to be able to send it to overtime.
Adrian Hilburn, a senior wide receiver, breaks free and trots into the end zone for the score. In the process, at the back, he pulls up and executes some sort of silly salute to the cameras. This draws a flag from the nearby official.
Unsportsmanlike conduct. Excessive celebration. All of a sudden, K-State's 2-pt conversion try has to go from the 18 yard line, a place where it's virtually impossible to score two. Predictably, the ensuing pass is high and one failed on-side kick later sees the Wildcats lose their bowl.
All because of a flag happy official.
This is the text of the rule as it appears in the official rule book:
1. No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:
(d) Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)
Perhaps one of the worst rules in college football in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I've never been a fan of the ridiculous touchdown dances in the NFL. I'm even less of a fan of the dances that seem to take place now after any player makes a routine play, even ones that aren't all that spectacular. Score a touchdown? Dance. Sack the quarterback? Dance. Tackle for a loss? Dance. Snap a ball correctly? Definitely deserves a dance. Clearly.
But... I detest the NCAA's "solution" even more. Excessive celebration is called whenever any player tries to "draw attention to themselves". Okay. Right. Like that makes sense. I mean, it's the fourth quarter of a BOWL GAME. You've just broken free to score the potentially game tying touchdown, and you're not allowed to be excited?! It's like the NCAA expects its athletes to be faceless automatons, wordlessly and emotionlessly executing plays on the field for the enjoyment of those in the stands and in the living rooms, who are perfectly allowed to celebrate. Right.
It's a stupid call that has the power (as it did today) to change the outcome of games. That's not right. Aren't our student athletes expected to be amateurs? Playing for the love of the sport and not compensation?
Then we should let them act like it.