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Coaches Open Fire On Taunting College Football Forum Intends To Curb Sportsmanship Problem

Ken Stephens Dallas Morning News

College football coaches believe a more concerted effort is needed to reign in taunting and excessive celebrations by players.

During the annual NCAA College Football Forum on Sunday at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Marriott, coaches representing every major conference listed preserving sportsmanship among their greatest concerns for the game.

Taunting an opponent or engaging in showboating celebrations of big plays were subject to a 15-yard penalty last season. However, the coaches said the rule was enforced inconsistently, and there were no clear guidelines on what was a rules violation.

As a result, the NCAA football rules committee is planning a special meeting in early May to review hours of game tapes and develop an instructional video containing about 20 examples intended to clearly define what is over the line.

“It’s a fine line,” said Alabama coach Gene Stallings. “None of us likes the showboating. But I’d rather see a guy celebrating in the end zone than get tackled on the one.”

Stallings believes that the rule against excessive celebrations should turn on whether the players’ actions are orchestrated. Jumping up and down with teammates is one thing, but drawing an imaginary gun, shooting it and spinning it back into a holster is another.

Texas Christian coach Pat Sullivan said he is upset by attempts to grab individual attention for plays that could not have been accomplished without the help of 10 teammates.

Last week, the rules committee recommended a new rule that would prohibit players from removing their helmets to play to the crowd. If the rule is confirmed by the NCAA executive committee in May, players would be allowed to remove their helmets only during a timeout, with the permission of an official to repair equipment or on the sideline in the team area between the 25-yard lines.

Coaches and NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey said much of the disturbing behavior has trickled down from pro football. For that reason, American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff said an NCAA committee on sportsmanship will meet with NFL representatives. The NCAA will ask the NFL to curtail some of the pros’ behavior because they serve as role models for college players.

Coaches are hopeful that placing emphasis on the taunting/excessive celebration rule will have the desired effect next season. Strict enforcement of a new anti-fighting rule promoted at this time last year by the AFCA resulted in a 50-percent drop in the number of fights last season, said Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry, a member of the rules committee.

But Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said that regardless of the rules, “inappropriate behavior by a coach or a player is something (head coaches) all have the power to control if you want to.”

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