Feb 6 2018

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Hold the celebration: College football won’t follow NFL’s lead

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DESTIN, Fla. — The NFL, otherwise known as the No Fun League, announced last week it would remove the “No” part. Snow angels, group celebrations, even using a football as a prop, are all suddenly allowed again, per fun-loving commissioner Roger Goodell.

“We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown,” Goodell wrote in a letter to fans. “And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.”

So for those who follow college football — which often ends up mimicking its pro brethren — it led to the natural question: Would it loosen up too?

Yeah, don’t count on it.

“I know the NFL went all in. I don’t think we wanna go down that road,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said this week at SEC meetings. “We always tell our players to celebrate together and that usually takes care of it. Any of the preplanned or choreographed stuff, that’s probably not something we wanna get into.”

That was the message also from the NCAA rules committee. College football has fairly strict rules on celebrations — even spiking a football isn’t allowed — and there has been no talk about liberalizing the policies, according to coordinator of officials Steve Shaw.

“I would tell you the rules committee feels like where we are today on unsportsmanlike is a pretty good spot,” Shaw said. “It still lets the guys have some fun. But it has taken the crazy shenanigans out.”

The NFL and college have actually had fairly different celebration rules for awhile. Spiking a football has almost always been fine in the NFL. That simple gesture will get you 15 yards in the college game.

The NCAA rulebook states that a player must “immediately” return the football to the official after a score. It defines excessive celebration as “any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves).”

That can potentially cover a lot, and has led to some controversial calls. Georgia’s A.J. Green was penalized after a touchdown against LSU in 2009 simply for staring at the stands too long. Players have been penalized for flinging the ball in the air after crossing the goal line.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron calls it “the Miami rule.” He was at Miami (Fla.) when Jimmy Johnson “let those plays and express themselves,” in Orgeron’s words, and the NCAA cracked down.

Orgeron said he would favor loosening up the restrictions.

“I’m into enthusiasm. I’m into celebration,” Orgeron said. “As long as it’s not just way out there, I think enthusiasm is good. I think if guys work hard they ought to be able to celebrate. But obviously we’ve got to follow the rules.”

And those rules don’t look like they will be changing.

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason put it like this: The NFL made a business decision. So is the college game.

“I think the NFL made a business decision for them and looked at their model and said, you know what, viewership is down probably based on the simple fact that the game’s not exciting. So they looked at a way to infuse some excitement back in the game,” Mason said. “I think for us, college football has such a different following. It’s exciting for what it is. It’s value-rich in tradition. And one of the traditions for our kids to make sure they play the game the right way. For that, it’s a different game.

“Will it come up again in the next couple years? Probably so. Because the NFL, college, they generally follow each other in some shape, form or fashion. But as we sit here now, I think the college game is pretty safe in what it is doing.”

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