Making the case for excessive celebration in college football

“Celebrate good times, come on!”


-Kool and the Gang



Congratulations!  You just received that promotion you’ve been anticipating.  You closed a huge sale, finished that lingering household project or lost the weight you’ve been trying for months to lose.  It’s time to celebrate.  After all, who could hold back emotion after such an accomplishment?  Wouldn’t you immediately pat yourself on the back, phone a friend or rejoice with your family?  After all, you deserve it.


Well, be thankful you don’t play college football, for in that venue, showing any sort of emotion is a violation of the rules.  Such an outburst costs you fifteen yards of field position and possibly a shot at a national title.  It might even grant your opponent a chance they otherwise would not have earned. 


Such was the case this Saturday.


In the final ninety-nine seconds of the Georgia-LSU game, a day-long defensive struggle quickly turned into a score-fest.  Those last fourteen points changed the game and the national football landscape.  So did one man’s judgment of another man’s joy.


APTOPIX LSU Georgia footballWith minutes to spare, down 12-7, quarterback Joe Cox led Georgia to an apparent victory when he fired a pass that AJ Green miraculously grabbed in mid-air over his defender.  The reception sent a stadium full of Bulldogs into a frenzy.  On the ensuing possession with seconds to spare, LSU’s Charles Scott ran 33 yards, giving LSU the victory and silencing that rabid crowd.  The only problem?  Scott’s game-winning touchdown might not have occurred if not for a little yellow flag.


Shortly after scoring their respective touchdowns, both Green and Scott were penalized fifteen yards for excessive celebration.  The Scott penalty was more blatant, but less costly as too much time had expired.  The Green penalty, however, occurring seconds beforehand, meant LSU was a Trindon Holliday runback away from field goal range… and the victory.  There wasn’t a fan between the hedges who couldn’t see that coming.


In recent years, college football officials have been cracking down on any form of emotion whatsoever.  In the Georgia-LSU game, the penalties may have affected the outcome.  This is no excuse.  Coaches and players know the rule, which is in place to teach kids discipline, sportsmanship and honor… I think.


I still can’t help but wonder what’s so wrong with showing emotion or expressing individuality on the field.  You’ve practiced your whole life for these moments.  You’re performing in front of thousands of screaming fans.  You’ve given your team the lead and your adrenaline is pumping.  You’re not supposed to celebrate?  It’s the exclamation point at the end of a perfect sentence.


NCAA Football Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(1)(d) prohibits “Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves).”  The rule allows for too much referee interpretation.  We’ve seen players gather together and chest bump after a big play but who’s to decide what is acceptable and what warrants a penalty?


Look, I used to coach.  I preached the importance of sportsmanship.  Win or lose, my kids would shake hands with the opponent and congratulate them on a game well-played.  That’s what sports is all about.  If a kid didn’t celebrate after hitting the winning basket, I’d assume something was wrong with him. 


LSU Georgia footballCelebration occurs in every other organized sport, so why not college football?  When a baseball player hits a walk-off home run, the entire dugout awaits his return to home plate.  After a last second three-pointer, NBA players rush the floor.  In the NFL, end zone dances have been made famous by many.  When a tennis player hits a baseline winner at a crucial moment, there’s elation.  When Tiger nails a birdie from twenty feet out, he pumps his fists.  Even in other college sports, players are allowed to celebrate a job well done but not in college football.  The muzzle has been tightly clamped. 


A football player has been conditioned all week to smash his opponent in the mouth.  Asking him to suddenly squelch his emotions after scoring is akin to bringing home a Vietnam veteran, taking a weapon out of his hands and demanding he fit back into civil society.


If I wanted dull, I’d read Russian literature or watch Jerry Sloan’s Hall of Fame induction speech.  This is college football.  I oppose taunting an opponent but the line between celebration and unsportsmanlike conduct is not as fine as the NCAA would have us believe.  What’s to say officials are not as caught up in the moment as the other 100,000 people in the building?


We are human beings, creatures of emotion.  It’s what differentiates us from other animals on this planet.  We celebrate and we mourn.  We live, we laugh, we love.  We are a nation of Kirks, not Spocks.  Penalizing the college athlete for expressing emotion is not only unnecessary, it’s detrimental.


LSU may have won Saturday’s game regardless but their victory was facilitated by the Green penalty which was questionable at best.  Picture if you will, LSU advancing to the national championship game.  Would they have done so with a mid-season loss in Athens, a loss that might have occurred had one man not been penalized for drawing too much attention to himself in the heat of the moment?


In the end, it’s not about national championships.  It’s about allowing people to express themselves within the context of the game.  The time has come to modify the rule or at least its interpretation.  Penalize players for taunting but let them celebrate.  Everyone else in the stadium is. 

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78 Replies to “Making the case for excessive celebration in college football”

  1. Right on Rev! The NCAA refs are interjecting themselves far too much in the games now.

    These are young guys, celebrating should be fine. Taunting, no. Celebrating, yes.

    But the one penalty that chaps my loins is…..

    At least 75% of any kick returned for a TD will be called back. And we all know why, even before the ref announces it….Block in the back. When a defender turns his back just as he’s being contacted, that should not be the dreaded BITB.

  2. No doubt the CALLS, not CALL, were bad. UGA had just scored using very little clock time, and had the SAME chance to score again like LSU did. BOTH teams kicked from the 15 and just because LSU had a good return and UGA did not is NOT a LEGITIMATE reason to suggest that the BAD CALLS were any more detrimental to UGA than LSU. ENOUGH WITH THE EXCUSES

  3. Han… If the officials are allowed to make a judgment call on the difference between taunting and celebration, then why can’t they just shift the definition a little.

    Like I said in the post, the line is not as fine as they’ll have us believe.

    Think about it, what if LSU reaches the title game? I mean, that’s possible, right?

    I’m not saying that game was won. LSU still had a shot… but the field position undoubtedly helped. And anytime you have Holliday returning kickoffs, all you need is a head start to get in field goal range.

  4. Ron…. Thanks for swinging by.

    I’m not making excuses for either team. Like I said, the rules are what they are and the teams know that going in.

    LSU was better prepared to handle their last drive because of their kick return game and the time left on the clock when they got the ball.

    I thought LSU was the better team going in.

    What I AM saying is that the NCAA should look at the rule and allow these kids the chance to celebrate a big play.

  5. Driving home from Macon, GA after my daughter, the photographer, had made in excess of 400 photos of graves and houses and anything Allman Brothers related, we made a detour around by Juliet, GA where the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed. As we got to Covington, GA (where In the Heat of the Night was filmed), I started scanning the radio for something besides 70s country rock and there was the last 15 minutes or so of the GA-LSU game. I heard that call. I thought “What in the world is EXCESSIVE CELEBRATION? I’ll have to ask Chris!”

  6. The only thing I caught was Scott, after pointing to the sky, pointed to his chest, therefore “focusing attention on himself.”

    As for the Green penalty…I saw nothing.

  7. Beaver… Lundquist and Danielson were looking the play over and came to the same conclusion.

    Can’t give Holliday an extra 15. That’s like giving it to Brandon James.

  8. Toss the ball to the ref, get the hell out of the end zone, go party on your way to the sideline. If Green, who didn’t do a damn thing, can get popped for it, no one is immune. The rule sucks but it’s the rule. And the SEC refs are not, imho, paragons of impartiality. Gators, hope you were watching.

  9. THe reason the UGA penalty hurt more on the kickoff than the LSU penalty was that GA was kicking into a pretty stiff wind.

  10. If we (LSU) make it to the national title game, it would probably mean a win over Florida and Alabama. Which a loss to UGA would mean we would have been a 1 loss champ… I agree the calls were stupid and rules should be changed, but the game itself could have been affected equally by probably 30 different plays in both directions…Good win for the Bayou Bengals.

  11. Keith, all those things, i.e., the wind, the penalty, Holliday, the call all aided an LSU win.

    The call may or may not have affected the outcome. Still questionable though.

    Personally, I’m tired of seeing nothing but chest bumps after each score.

    I say we give the kids a little bit of rope.

  12. Stephen, congrats on the win and see you next week. Thanks for reading.

    Personally, I’m glad LSU won. As a Florida alum, I would not have wanted to play LSU at night in Baton Rouge after a loss… with or without Tebow.

  13. Thanks, Chris. Looking forward to this weekend. I hope Tebow IS playing. If not, it will still be a tough and great game, but I like to play against the best… BTW, he better keep the phone in his pocket… I would hate to win 2 games in a row for the same reason

  14. I hate the rule because 1- it’s hard to contain emotions, and 2- it’s not enforced unilaterally by the zebras.

    Nice article.

  15. Chris

    Well it looks like the hooks and pikes & long staffs are out for Bobby Bowden ? He’s now being haranged by the Chief Trustee of Adminitrators who essentially want him to step down immmediately and hand over the reins to Jimbo Fisher. Isn’y that akin to allowing a blind man to drive an eighteen wheeler ?

    Let the kids celebrate any way that they want within reason. Just as long it’s not offensive to anyone.

    You’ve got to give the Bucs their due. They still manage to stink up the joint even without trying that hard at all. Can someone remind me why they’re playing Clayton $4million a year ? It can’t be to drop passes that your or my grandmother would be able to catch in their sleep. But then again with the Bucs, who knows ?

    Alan Parkins

  16. Hey Rev,
    I have to say I agree with you, as much as I dislike Richt, I think the official should not have thrown that flag on Green. It was a close game and emotions were running high.
    As much as I like seeing karma catching up with Richt, it should have been a no call.
    Take care brother.

  17. Interesting to note how many LSU fans think you only have a problem with the celebration calls in the Ga/LSU game.

    Maybe you need to type slower?

  18. Bad calling by referees is fine, only if it is called bad both ways. I am tired of referees changing the outcome of a game. I would like to know how much money that referee got for calling the penalty on AJ Green and giving the game to LSU. Remember the referee who tackled the South Carolina player that was on You Tube. Did he lose his job? Nor do I expect this referee to lose his job after the ridiculous game changing call against Georgia.

  19. The call against A.J. was the single worst call i’ve ever seen and was the deciding factor in a lesser lsu team beating Georgia.

  20. Chris

    How bad do you think that this NBA season will be ? Especially given the fact that Stern wants to use guys from the NBA D League to officiate the games in the preseason as well as the regular season . And many of these guys have never officiated a game at the professional level .Let’s not forget that they’ve all but said that they’re not prepared to deal with the union of the NBA Refs’ Association or listen to their apparent grievances.

    If we want to see proper officiating in the games. Then there ought to be clear cut parameters laid down. And at the same time why can’t the NCAA and other sporting organizations actually have well qualified officials ? We as fans aren’t often made aware as to what their credentials are to begin with.

    Dropped this piece on the US’s failure to win the 2016 Olympic bid.

    It’s Rio Or Bust Baby ! ………….

    Alan Parkins

  21. Chris, you are catching me with a lot of guys on bye weeks, so you may actually have a remote chance this week. Assuming you make the playoffs, I will relish the rematch! lol Glad to see your link from SI, what’s next, Playboy?

  22. Al… Speaking of Pike, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the first QB taken in next year’s draft. Kid’s got good NFL size and doesn’t have the all-of-the-sudden injury baggage of Bradford and Tebow.

    The Bucs played hard. It was a shame they couldn’t pull that one out. Great game by Talib with the three picks but I guarantee the play he’ll remember was when he got burnt by Moss.

  23. Aer… I haven’t heard any post-game comments from Richt yet about the call. I know coaches hate to come down on their players for effort plays. I agree, ref probably should have swallowed that whistle.

    I did love watching that game, though. Those two guys can flat out coach.

  24. AC… I’m not so sure LSU was the ‘lesser’ team.

    In fact, even though they were the underdog, I expected them to win the game. I do think they’re better, if even slightly.

    A Florida team at 100% should be able to handle both those squads, don’t you think?

  25. I was at the UGA/LSU game. No interest in either team, just wanted to see a game between the “hedges”. I will tell you this, I was surprised at how much LSU hot dogged it all day without a penalty, after a catch, after a tackle, even after a touchdown, an offensive lineman was doing a provocative dance out on the field, gesturing to the stands and no call. And then that call?
    Please, that ref should be reffing middle school games going forward.

  26. Al… on the same topic, is anyone really ever happy with officiating in any sport? It’s a thankless job.

    The best officials are the ones we never notice.

    Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate the human element of officiating. They have to some extent in tennis and we still bitch.

    Maybe we should just have NBA 2010 be ‘the pick-up’ season and let the players call their own fouls. Think they’d make it through 82 games?

    By the way, are they holding tryouts?

  27. Right on, CHump. Couldn’t agree more with you, and Gene– taunting no, but celebrating? Hell yeah! Not every second of college sport is a “teachable moment” – some might even be mistaken for fun! Shhh!

    And in the spirit of gamesmanship, may Dostoyevsky someday do an endzone dance on your freakin’ anti-intellectual head! Give it a shot, guy-who-puts-words-together-for-publication.

  28. Yaz… you know what they say about excuses, right?

    And if (when) I make Playboy, do you think you’ll read the article? I know you picked up Campus Talk for the pics… he he.

    Whatcha doin’ for the UF-LSU game?

  29. JJH… wow, man!

    Great game to see. You picked a good one.

    But you’re exactly right. As I said in the post, the rule allows for too much referee interpretation.

    Should we not expect Green and the rest of the Dawgs to celebrate that last touch? That catch was incredible.

    I really think we need to allow, if not encourage, these kids to express emotion. It’s ridiculous to expect otherwise.

  30. DJ Arthritic Semitic in the house supporting Russian lit. You’re a classic, man.

    I only pick up Brothers Karamazov when I feel I can’t sleep.

    But for you, I promise I’ll give it a second look.

    Like Cusack said in High Fidelity… “I’ve read books like An Unbearable Lightness of Being and 100 Years of Solitude. They were about girls, right? Just kidding.”

  31. Nice to read an article that admits that LSU might still have won the game. I’m an LSU fan and I admit that the celabration call against UGA was a lousy call, but I don’t believe that was what doomed UGA. Allowing a 40 yard kick return by Holiday hurt UGA much more. Without the celabration penalty, LSU has the ball at midfield, 2 timeouts and a minute left on the clock. Who knows what would have happened then. On LSU’s previous possesion, they went 88 yards for a touchdown. They could have gone the 15 yards and kicked a field goal as time expired. UGA could have tackled as poorly as they did on Scott’s 33 yard run and instead he runs 48 yards for the winning score. We’ll never know, but in my opinion, the poor kick coverage hurt more than the celabration penalty.

  32. Chris… anytime you have Holliday returning kicks, you have a shot at good starting field position.

    I’m not quite sure why UGA kicked to him.

    LSU could have won the game regardless but the 15 tacked on didn’t hurt.

    Thanks for reading and it’ll be a helluva game next week. The UGA game served as a tasty little appetizer before the main course.

  33. Well written as usual Pep, and congrats on being pick up by SI…OUTSTANDING 🙂
    On another note, I understand the meaning of excessive celebration, but that would have to imply, by definition, a celebration in the first place. To go from a celebration to excessive is very confusing to me. I personally didn’t see any celebration…much less anything that could be considered excessive. After all, he wasn’t even wearing two hats 🙂

  34. G… Didn’t the NCAA change the rules on celebration after your two hat performance at Sawgrass? As you suggest, I think excessive is just a state of mind.

    We must do that again soon.

  35. Chris

    Well if he’s taken in the first round then I’m sure he’ll be of benefit to some team.

    Too bad Josh Johnson’s efforts were wasted. If Michael Clayton can’t even catch a ball thrown to him . Does it mean that it’s a certainty that he can’t catch the swine flue (H1N1 virus) ? God that guy is friggin’ awful !

    Even the Broncos’ Brandon Marshall is now said to be laughing at him. And he’s being paid less than Clayton. Just under 15 times less than Clayton as a matter of fact. So what does that tell you ?

    Alan Parkins

  36. If I were the Cleveland Browns, I would take a HARD look at Pike.

    They need to get rid of either Quinn or Anderson or both and start from scratch.

    Nice to see Marshall and McDaniels have kissed and made up.

    Wait… did I just hear Merrill Hoge say Brett Favre is the most magical player to ever put on a pair of pads??

  37. Its very disappointing anytime the zebras tilt the scales too much. I say they issue a warning like a yellow card in soccer specifically for this issue. Once they get warned then they are on their own but ones mans celebration is another man’s excess. Its like the NBA. In the first few minutes you know if they are calling touch fouls or letting them play. If you rack up 3 fouls in the first quarter you weren’t paying attention!

    The Bucs were so close and as much as Clayton stunk up the joint let’s not forget that Nugent whiffed on 2 kicks that he should have and could have made! Is there no one unsigned that can kick? Morton Anderson? George Blanda? Jan Stenerud?? Someone???? A bad team cannot afford to give up 6 easy and earned points and especially not on the road! On a good note Caddy continues to play well and Johnson looked OK although obviously scared to throw down field.

  38. Chris

    What you also have to remember in the midst of this all is the impact of the financial hit that the Browns’ll have to take.

    I think personally the Browns made the wrong choice in hiring Mangini. He’s not that much better than Romeo Crennel to begin with.

    Alan Parkins

  39. Seth… if anything, they need to be giving yellow cards to the officials. I really think it’s impossible for these guys to NOT get caught up in the emotion of the game. I’m not saying they have allegiances or alterior motives. I’m just saying being surrounded by 100,000 mad fans is bound to affect even the most impartial human.

    Tough loss for the Bucs, man. They played their hearts out. I’m hoping they’re able to bring that emotion every week and not start giving up. Philly next week won’t be any easier and they’re coming off a bye.

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  41. LSU may have won Saturday’s game regardless but their victory was facilitated by the Green penalty which was questionable at best. Picture if you will, LSU advancing to the national championship game. Would they have done so with a mid-season loss in Athens, a loss that might have occurred had one man not been penalized for drawing too much attention to himself in the heat of the moment?

    Not to mention the fact that Green hardly had any celebration at all. Even the announcers said the only thing they saw was Green “looked up” at the crowd. Give me a break. The refs went way overboard on this one.

  42. The SEC sent out a report to cover their asses on this call. It said Green brought attention to himself. Watch at 27 seconds. This must have been where the excessive celebration penalty was called.
    It was an attempt to get Sanford stadium in pandemonium, not to call attention to himself.
    Also remember Tavarres King was called for celebrating doing the same thing earlier in the game.

  43. Gary…. Thanks for reading. We hope you’ll visit again.

    Personally, I think the refs went overboard on both calls.

    The point of the piece was that the rule as it stands is inappropriate.

    We need to allow these guys to express joy in their accomplishments and not punish them for it.

  44. I actually like the rule, but in AJ’s case, THERE WAS NO PENALTY. He simply did not taunt or excessively celebrate or do anything inappropriate. As my friend Matt (not a UGA fan said), “he’s not being unsportsmanlike; he’s actually be SPORTSMANLIKE, celebrating a great play.”

  45. Chris

    I know that but we’re talking about the Cleveland Browns . Not some high profiled NFL franchise to begin with. Mangini has a thankless task. But I think that they made a profound mistake in making him their coach to begin with. It’s like having to ask Tara Reid perform cardio thoracic surgery just because she played a surgeon in some non descript movie. Personally I wouldn’t Mangini near an NFL franchise as a coach , much less as an equipment technician. Not even if my life depended on it !

    So Brett Favre’s a winner ? Does that place him on the fast track for beatificiation and then Sainthood ? Saint Brett Gulfport . Does that have a nice ring to it ?

    Dropped this on the Cowboys’ inexplicable loss to the Broncos.

    The $1 Billion White Elephant In The Room , To Be More Precise Sitting In Arlington Texas ………

    As and when you’re ready I’ll look forward to reading your comments.

    Alan Parkins

  46. Chris

    The real problem is that the duds at ESPN can’t show any objectivity when it comes to Favre. He’s treated like a deity there. The likes of Schlereth , Hoge and Mortensen have their lips firmly and squarely locked to his as_s . Is it any wonder that all we’re left with – is to imagine that profound Brokeback moment ?

    Dropped this boxing piece on the upcoming bout between Pavlik and Paul Willians for the WBC & WBO middleweight titles currently held by Pavlik. Another Buckeye is about to bite the dust when they meet in December. Poor old Pavlik – never been truly appreciated as a fighter.

    I’ve Got Nothing But Love For You Brother But This Time ……

    Alan Parkins

  47. Chris

    With Limbaugh and Dave Checketts now said to be interested in buying the St Louis Rams . Will that now mean that Rush’ll have another soap box upon which he can now stand and lambast all who disagree with him on anything he so desires ?

    I mean it’s the friggin’ Rams for God’s sake ! LOL, LOL,LOL !!!! I guess there’ll be no possibility of him trading for Donovan McNabb then ? Not that Donovan has anything against Rush to begin with – or has he ?

    Rush for Rams? Limbaugh bids for NFL team ……….

    Alan Parkins

  48. Mangini doesn’t have much to work with.

    Favre alreaqdy a saint in Madden’s book but you have to admit… he looked pretty good last night.

    The Rams may very well be the worst NFL team I’ve seen in years. How do you have Stephen Jackson on your roster and still suck??

  49. Braylon’s a talent if his head is screwed on straight. We’ll see if Ryan can manage him. The Jets were playing well. We’ll see if Braylon adds to or ruins that clubhouse.

    From what I gather from Ryan, he’s not one to take any crap.

    Only time will tell if Mangini got the better of that deal. Either way, Braylon wasn’t giving it his all in the Dawg Pound.

  50. Bro Bill has a lady comin’ in to make lasagna, so I’ll be watchin’ there for at least one half lol. Btw, I pimped your site to ESPN, hope that’s all right. See you in the skybox.

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  53. The rule is pointless. As you say, you cnt expect a Vietnam vet to go back to a desk job overnight. I watched this game because my Dad went to UGA and he was watching it, but I’ve never been into hockey or football because I think they basically bring out the worst in players. Your examples about other sports actually illustrate the inherent difference between these sports not arbitrary differences in officiating the games.

  54. Jon… thanks for reading, man.

    I just don’t understand why college football players aren’t allowed to celebrate when basically every other athlete in every other sport, college or pro, is allowed to.

    Doesn’t make sense.

    I will say this, though. I did see some celebration yesterday in college action that could have been called but wasn’t, so maybe the NCAA told the refs to loosen up just a little bit.

    And that would be a good thing.

    From here on out, we’re going to refer to that is as sportschump leniency.

  55. Just got to reading this post: “We are a nation of Kirks, not Spocks..” Wow… Putting Star Trek on the national stage. Heh heh.. Nice. I didn’t see the game but it sickens me whenever I hear about excessive celebration penalties. I understand taunting penalties, etc.., but you are in the game to win and enjoy the freakin’ thing for Chrissakes! Joy shouldn’t be penalized.

  56. Joy and pain, sunshine and rain.

    ‘Bout time you got around to reading this one, Donny C.

    This is the piece that got picked up by SI and other sites around the nation.

    Te veo este noviembre y que lo pases bien en Vegas.

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  59. Right on, Chris Humphreys! I don’t know who you are, I found your site just now when I Googled “College Football Penalties.” The impetus for my Google search is the game I’m watching right now – Auburn v. West Virginia. I don’t have a particular allegiance to either team, I’m a USC fan, but I’ve thought this for a while and this game reminded me to ask … why can’t these guys celebrate? In fact, I enjoy watching them … in the NFL, too, although the rule seems to be a little more forgiving for the pros. Let the guys express their joy and enthusiasm. If I’m the opponent, that’s not going to deflate me, that’s going to inspire me … “I’m not going let that turnover happen again,” “I gotta hold that block better.” You know what I mean? You do! And, it was refreshing reading that you do! Right on! Thanks, Chris! ~ Donna

  60. Ya know what, Fight?

    Thanks for reading.

    I really loved writing this particular piece.

    As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of either team of the game in question but the calls involved were ridiculous and did affect the game’s outcome. In fact, I do believe it warranted the conference, and hopefully the NCAA this offseason, to look at that rule and its implementation.

    This piece was actually linked to and garnered a lot of traffic. Nice to see it’s still doing so.

    Stop by any time as there’s much more to come.

  61. Yep, nice article. Gotta say the whole trend in sports just seems to be going south. The new T rules in hoops is just garbage. Is it cuz we are becoming old men or is it cuz pro sports are actually faltering.

    I remember my father talking about the transformation the NBA had gone over from the 60’s to the 90’s as a marvelous thing. I can’t say the same about the 80’s to the present… unfortunately.

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