NCAA College Football Fun Police Getting WAY Out of Control

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As we are currently deep in the heart of BCS bowl season, we’re witnessing a new college football protocol even more nonsensical than the BCS; the arbitrary and capricious enforcement of their “no fun league” rules.

Let’s start with the flagging of K-State wide receiver Adrian Hilburn in the Pinstripe Bowl. He was penalized for merely saluting the crowd. What if he had done this in the Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl, or the Northrup Grumman Military Bowl? Are you allowed to salute in one of the military-industrial complex bowls? This is the first bowl season featuring all three service academies. Would a referee dare penalize a player on Air Force, Navy or Army for a hallowed gesture of reverence and respect?

I hope not. But then again the NCAA is being extremely arbitrary and capricious here. In the same exact game, Tennessee QB Tyler Bray did the Brian Wilson-in-the-World Series style “throat slash” gesture to celebrate a touchdown. He was not flagged.

By Paul M. Banks

And ironically, cameras later caught Bray crying once he realized his Vols would lose the inaugural bowl game in Yankee Stadium. What goes around comes around.

“The NCAA is doing the best they can to take the fun out of the sport. They don’t want you to celebrate, they don’t want you to show any enthusiasm, and they obviously don’t have anyone on the board like me who has played the game and know that it’s an emotional game,” said ESPN’s Desmond Howard when I caught up to him at the Nike Football Media Summit last month.

“You can’t play this game without emotion, excitement. Some players do but they’re the exception. Barry (Sanders) was the exception, not the rule,” the former Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP said.

Howard, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame earlier this year, is known first and foremost for his Heisman pose end-zone celebration when he was with the Michigan Wolverines in 1991. He confirmed this is the first thing strangers associate with him; much  like a famous actor/comedian’s public image is connected to a trademark catch-phrase.

He was not penalized for the pose, but if it happened today, he most certainly would be flagged. Howard was in Dallas on behalf of Nike, a company which has seen their products inspire collegiate refs to enforce this arbitrary and capricious rule. It occurred this past Thanksgiving weekend when Howard’s Wolverines were routed by the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Here’s the gist of it from Yahoo’s Dr. Saturday blog

Nike was obviously very proud of the retro “Pro Combat” look it dreamed up for Ohio State in honor of the Buckeyes’ 1942 national championship team. Part of that look included lightweight “Vapor Jet” gloves featuring “premium Magnigrip CL technology” and custom art specifically designed to display a block ‘O’ when the palms are brought together.

The only problem? When Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey brought the gloves together to form the ‘O’ after taking in a touchdown pass from Terrelle Pryor to put the Buckeyes up 24-7 in the second quarter, he was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. OSU was subsequently forced to kick off to the Wolverines from its own 15-yard line instead of its own 30.

The rule states that a player cannot do anything to draw attention to himself.

Excuse me NCAA, but they “learned it from watching you Dad.” Your bowl games are hyped beyond belief and well beyond the actual scope and meaning of the games. So why can’t the players call attention to themselves after having made right? They work hard all year,  let them enjoy the experience as fully as they can.

And if college football truly believes in enforcing this ridiculous rule, then establish precedent. Make sure there’s rhyme or reason to what qualifies as “excessive celebration.”

Oklahoma State Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon ran the entire length of the end zone (entirely unnecessary) before scoring in the Alamo Bowl. He stole the bit from DeSean Jackson, today’s unquestioned king of ridiculous NFL end-zone celebrating.

If the NCAA is going to be Captain Bringdown, the least they could do is take the hypocrisy out of their buzz-killing.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com

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