Green Room

Video: College Football—Are The Referees “Blowing It” During Bowl Season?

posted at 4:23 pm on December 31, 2010 by

As the bowl games proceed through this New Year’s weekend, college football fanatics will certainly want to know what the outcomes will be now that the referees have “injected their will” into certain games. If yesterday’s Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium gives us any indication of what players, coaches, and fans can expect, disappointments like the game between Syracuse and K-State may be on the menu. produced a fair analysis of what transpired: 

“Unsatisfied with what was shaping up to be the best Bowl game of the season, the referees took matters into their own hand and called a ridiculous excessive celebration penalty against Kansas State to seal Syracuse’s 36-34 victory. 

With a little more than a minute remaining in the back-and-forth contest, Kansas State had the ball at the Syracuse 30-yard-line, trailing 36-28. Quarterback Carson Coffman hit Adrian Hillborn on a short pass, Hillborn broke a tackle, took it to the house, and saluted the crowd.” 

This 26 second video gives you the idea of what’s considered “excessive celebration”: 

 Because a 15 yard penalty was tacked onto the two-point conversion attempt that K-State had to make to tie the game, this unsportsmanlike conduct pushed the play back to the 17 yard line instead of two yards from the goal line. In an SI/AP story, Todd Geerlings of the Big Ten justified his crew’s decision: 

“Big Ten referee Todd Geerlings said both the head linesman and the back judge threw flags for excessive celebration – rule 9-1-1d – because Hilburn was drawing attention to himself. 

“These kinds of excessive celebrations have been a priority in the rulebook for the last several years,” Geerlings told a pool reporter. “There’s a whole page in the rulebook pertaining to sportsmanship.” …………” 

Should college football fans ask Mr. Geerlings if there’s a page in the rulebook that explains the word “consistency”? Or did Geerlings miss this little celebration in the same game? 

photo by

No penalty was called for this celebration. 

Exit Questions: 1) Some one asked in a comments thread yesterday how the refs would handle a player saluting if he just scored a TD for Army, Navy, or the Air Force? 2) How do the refs plan on making these “questionable calls” at the end of a Rose Bowl or the National Championship game?

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Everything having to do with Colleges and Universities seems to be affected by a certain mental disorder. A whole page on sportsmanship? Lame.

uknowmorethanme on December 31, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Anyone who saw Tennessee’s QB NOT get flagged for taunting surely must be clawing their eyes out over that “excessive” celebration.

SouthernGent on December 31, 2010 at 5:24 PM

Well Mr. Rovin, based upon your experience officiating football, what do you think?

I can tell you what I think after doing so for several years but that doesn’t matter I’m sure. Just like what these officials call game to game only matters when the game is close.

There’s a reason some are in the stands, fewer are on the field and even fewer where the stripes.

jcrue on December 31, 2010 at 7:16 PM

Why do they have these ridiculous excessive celebration penalties? To prevent the losing team from having poor self-esteem?
You win some, you lose some…just like life itself.
So losing can be a blessing if it teaches youths how to handle adversity well.
What’s wrong with being happy?
Aren’t the fans there for a show?

itsnotaboutme on December 31, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Hmm… Last I checked, saluting was not about drawing attention to yourself — rather it was to draw attention away from yourself to your country.

drfredc on January 1, 2011 at 3:20 AM

The ref who made that call should never be allowed to ref a bowl game again. An absurd and disgusting call.

(And, no, I did not care about the outcome of that game. Didn’t even watch it.)

WannabeAnglican on January 1, 2011 at 8:57 AM

And it’s going to get better next year. From ESPN:

Next season, if a player draws an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the play, the penalty will wipe away the result of the play. For example, if a player high steps or unnecessarily dives into the end zone, the touchdown will be taken away and a 15-yard penalty will be assessed.


WannabeAnglican on January 1, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Yeah. It’s a contest between the NFL and the NCAA to see which organization can make the players more feminine.


BigAlSouth on January 1, 2011 at 12:11 PM

The celebration rules have their place, but this was ridiculous. A half-done salute amounts to excessive celebration? The troubling thing is that those players on both sides will never know how the game should have ended, and the “offending” receiver will likely carry this with him like an albatross for years to come.

hillbillyjim on January 2, 2011 at 2:10 AM

hillbillyjim on January 2, 2011 at 2:10 AM

And it gets worse, (or better, depending on your preference), next year:

“After last season, the rules committee considered making the excessive celebration penalty even tougher.

A proposal that would have taken points off the board if a player was flagged for excessive celebration after a touchdown did not pass, but there is a change coming to the unsportsmanlike conduct rule in 2011.

Next season, if a player draws an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the play, the penalty will wipe away the result of the play. For example, if a player high steps or unnecessarily dives into the end zone, the touchdown will be taken away and a 15-yard penalty will be assessed.”

You can bet the first time this happens at the end of a game—when YES, EMOTIONS ARE RUNNING WILD—it will be the fans that “may get excessive”. My point throughout this thread is about CONSISTANCY—and how officials are going to achieve it.

“It’s a judgment call, but technically speaking such acts that bring attention to yourself, those are fouls,” he said. “Some people would say it’s a little too technical, too marginal, but as it’s written, officials are covered by the rule.”….David Parry, who oversees college football officiating for the NCAA

If this is a “judgement call”, I sure hope the officials have their insurance policy’s updated.

Rovin on January 2, 2011 at 11:23 AM

I really don’t care what a player does after a score. That is a reason to celebrate. What I’d like to see gone is the flailing of arms and chest thumping after a routine tackle or catching a pass thrown well.

As to poor officiating, it’s no worse than any other year. What bothers me is the replay officials taking forever to pronounce judgement on an obvious play or call. If it’s really hard to tell, that’s one thing. When the replay instantly shows what was called to be correct, then get the word down to the field. Too many times this is a momentum changer.

Having said all that, I’d rather watch a crappy college game than most NFL games.

TugboatPhil on January 6, 2011 at 9:53 PM

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