The NCAA Will Now Take Away Touchdowns for Taunting

NCAA conjures up new rules for taunting on touchdowns

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Say this for the folks in charge of NCAA football: They don't much care about being popular. If they did, they'd probably take an extra second or two to stop and think about how the people who keep them in business feel about the decisions they make.

If they did that, they probably would have left Thursday's change to the rules about taunting on the drawing board and focused on ways to actually make the game more enjoyable. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a change to the way taunting penalties are assessed and they will now take away touchdowns if a player is deemed to be taunting before crossing the end zone.

That sound you don't hear is football fans turning to one another and saying "Thank the Lord, because I was worried that referees weren't going to have enough leeway to influence games with their own interpretations of the intentions of other human beings."

The problem with this rule, which goes into effect for the 2011 season, is that there is absolutely no guideline for how it gets enforced. Do you throw a flag if a running back raises his fist in triumph with no defenders in sight? Or is there going to be a zone of taunting that must be penetrated before a penalty occurs? What if a player dives into the end zone between a pair of defenders who may or may not be close enough to make a play? 

The answer will be different in every game because this rule turns every NCAA referee into Potter Stewart, the Supreme Court judge who famously said that pornography was hard to define but he knew it when he saw it. Sports rules aren't supposed to work that way outside of figure skating. 

The subjectivity inherent in applying this new standard is going to wind up affecting games, seasons and careers for reasons apparent only to the small group of old guys in suits who actually think the elation of 19-year-olds is a problem. 

Like we said, they don't care about being popular. It would be swell if they cared about football, though.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for

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