Sports Extra: New Rules to Watch for in 2011

Head coach Bill Snyder

Sept. 2, 2011

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By Mark Janssen

It’s not called the “celebration rule,” and it’s not the “K-State Rule.”

No, any excessive self-promoting celebration after a big play is nothing more than an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which includes a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul.

The NCAA football rules committee took special notice of the rule after K-State’s Adrian Hilburn was flagged for a post-touchdown military-type salute to the Wildcat fans sitting in the corner of the field in Yankee Stadium at the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse.

Hilburn’s touchdown pulled the Wildcats to within two points, 36-34, of Syracuse, but with the 15-yard penalty that came with the salute, QB Carson Coffman was forced to attempt a potential game-tying two-point conversion from the 18-yard-line with 1:13 remaining in the game. It failed.

While the penalty flag was correct to the letter of the NCAA law, Big 12 Supervisor of Officials Walt Anderson said, “Last year we realized that we were too technical with the rule. This year, as long as there is not a motion of taunting toward another player, or a prolonged display of celebration, or dancing in the end zone, or spiking the football, it will not be a penalty. If it’s a brief spontaneous moment of celebration, it will not be a penalty.”

What is allowed this fall is a quick Hilburn-type salute, or a celebrative fist pump, or a quick motion for a first down after a long-yardage play. Anderson also said that an act of high-stepping by a ball carrier to get away from a defender “will not be a penalty.”

“As long as it’s not a prolonged act, or an in your face display of unsportsmanship, then it will not be a penalty,” said Anderson.

What is different for 2011 is that if a taunting, or any other type of unsportsmanlike penalty is called during a live ball situation, points can be taken off the scoreboard.

“If the obvious taunting act happens at the 10-yard line as a player is running into the end zone, a flag will be thrown and the penalty will be walked off from the point of the penalty, and the points will be taken off the board,” said Anderson, who added that in past years the penalty would be administered on the following kickoff and the TD would count. “That’s the significant change this year. A touchdown can be taken off the board if there is an obvious rule violation within the playing field before the athlete goes into the end zone.”

That could also include a taunting penalty on a quarterback toward a defensive player at the 50-yard-line as his teammate races past the 15-yard-line toward the end zone.

“In that situation, the touchdown comes off the board and the penalty is walked off from the 50, or the spot of the foul,” said Anderson.

On the adjustment of the rule, K-State coach Bill Snyder said, “I think the important thing is that there's some consistency about how things are called. When you play within the conference, you probably have a certain degree of continuity. But when you get outside of the conference, and are playing with officials that come from a different conference, you're not sure if you'll have the same continuity.”

Taking responsibility away from the game officials, Snyder continued, “The best way for it not to be an issue is to make sure that your youngsters don't do anything that would threaten the letter of the rule itself. That's a matter of discipline. It's hard because every football coach in the country will tell you that you would want young people to be passionate about the game and play with a great deal of spirit and emotion because it is that kind of a game.

“When you do that, sometimes you just show your joy, and it's strictly that,” Snyder said. “It's not trying to demean anyone. It's just joy of accomplishing something on the field, and then you get penalized. Your players have to be disciplined and play within the rules.”

Anderson did emphasize that officials have been schooled to be “absolutely sure” of the live-ball penalty when it comes to taking points off the scoreboard.

“We don’t want to take points off the board if you’re not 100 percent sure about it,” said Anderson. “We’ve told our officials to error on the side of caution because it’s a play that cannot be reviewed.”
Upon hearing of the rule change, Hilburn said, “You think about it and you wish that seven or eight months ago the rule could have been like that and you wish you wouldn’t have been in that predicament. But at the same time, the rule change helps out the future guys at K-State, and all over the country.’’

Also New in 2011: Anderson also suggests that fans will be seeing more attempts to block punts this year.

Last year if a charging player was blocked into a punter, it would be a penalty on the defensive team whether it be running into the kicker, or roughing the kicker.

This year, Anderson explained, “If it is a blocker that forces you to hit a punter, it will not be a foul. If a player goes over the top of that three-man wedge that you frequently see and you go head over heels into the punter, it will not be a penalty of any kind.”

Because of that, Anderson said, “I think you’re going to see a lot more aggressiveness when it comes to blocking a punt.”

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