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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

On-field taunting to be more costly

By Ferd Lewis

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Starting in 2011, excessive celebrations near the end zone could take points off the scoreboard.

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When Chad Owens bolted 33 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown in a 66-7 victory over Texas-El Paso in 2001, he punctuated it with a well-choreographed dive into the Aloha Stadium end zone.

It earned Owens a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a place in Warrior lore as the progenitor of the so-called "Chad Owens Rule."

The "rule" as set down by then-head coach June Jones was that such stunts would be tolerated if the Warriors led by more than 20 points late in a game so that the penalty didn't come back to bite them. Several subsequent Warriors, receiver Davone Bess famously among them, added their own goal-line antics.

Yesterday the NCAA served notice that the price of celebrations will be escalating. Instead of punishing taunting episodes on the ensuing kickoff, those that take place on the way into the end zone will be considered live-ball fouls and can nullify scores.

Beginning in 2011, diving into the end zone, high stepping into it, pointing the ball at an opponent and other forms of what is deemed taunting on the way to the goal line will be assessed from the spot of the foul.

Excessive celebration penalties, etc., in the end zone will remain dead-ball fouls with penalties applied on the ensuring kickoff.

So, woe be the player who performs, say, a dive or fist pump approaching the goal line, causing points to come off the board, especially if it costs his team the game.

And heaven help the official on the field who has to call it in front of the home team's crowd or the replay officials who must determine whether it took place prior to or after the goal line.

The intent of the rule is, of course, laudable: to eliminate taunting of opponents. Celebrating a great play is one thing. Rubbing an opponent's face in it is another and it isn't sportsmanship.

But the problem in recent years has sometimes been differentiating between the two. What passes for spontaneous exuberance in one instance, when there are no defenders on the scene, is certainly less egregious than in-your-face histrionics meant to demean.

Sometimes, as we have seen in some UH games and via national examples, there has been little attention paid to telling the two apart and too much application of a one-ruling-fits-all call.

The most controversial national example last year came when Georgia receiver A.J. Green was flagged after catching the go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of a game with Louisiana State.

The penalty helped position the Tigers for a winning score that came under fire afterward when the Southeastern Conference determined there was no evidence to back up the penalty.

Two years ago, Washington quarterback Jake Locker was penalized for tossing the ball in the air after scoring a touchdown with two seconds left, a controversial call that set into motion a string of events that aided Brigham Young's 28-27 victory.

Now imagine, what might happen if touchdowns are actually called back. More reason to watch those celebratory Ps and Qs.