Last week the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel announced that eye black messages and live-ball celebrations will be punishable offenses in 2011.
“The rules committee voted unanimously on this. Let’s keep the lid on sportsmanship and prevent that type of demeaning,” said Dave Parry, the NCAA national coordinator of college football officiating. “I recall a play a few years ago where a player turned around at the 10 and teased the opponent with the ball. In the past this would be a penalty assessed on the extra point or kickoffs. Now, it’s no touchdown.”
In the past, officials could dock 15-yards from the extra point or ensuing kickoff for a live-ball celebration. Now high-steps, end zone flips, twirling, skipping and cartwheels are as good as a tackle.
“Just run it into the end zone, how hard is that?” said Indiana coach Bill Lynch after a spring practice. “It is a team game and that’s what makes it such a great game.”
Eye black messages like those made famous by former Trojan tailback Reggie Bush, who represented San Diego with ‘619’ below each eye, or recent Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who scrawled bible verses on his cheeks before several games last season, were also outlawed by the committee. By 2011, Heisman hopefuls will have to keep their quips to Twitter.
Regulating sportsmanship has been a topic of debate since the NCAA cracked down on “excessive celebration” penalties in the 1980’s. Some players are concerned about expressing their identity. Many of their coaches wonder how officials can objectively enforce this kind of rule.
“We all think the kids will understand [the rule],” said Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, chair of the rules committee. “This will cure those situations, and coaches will emphasize those things a lot more. I think it all comes back to the coach. Do the things the rules tell you.”