Rogers Redding is the NCAA's new national coordinator of officials, a title the former SEC referee must be delighted to hold after years of officiating service both on the field and in an administrative capacity. But though he'd never admit so publicly, we're betting he wishes he'd come aboard before some other season.
Why? Because 2011 is the first year of the NCAA's new unsportsmanlike conduct celebration policy, in which taunting or other conduct penalties committed during play will be a live-ball foul -- and could result in touchdowns, even game-winning ones, being removed from the scoreboard.
College football fans (those of us here at Eye on CFB included) have been near-unanimous in decrying the rule change, worrying that overzealous officials could alter the outcome of a critical game over a bit of harmless exuberance. We'd hope Redding would take the opportunity of this interview with Rivals to reassure us that won't be the case ... but as it turns out, it sounds like he's just as worried as we are:
"That's my hope, that's my dream, that it will be so obvious to the entire world," Redding says. "There will be people who disagree with it. If there are 50 guys in a bar, if 45 say it's a great call, I'll be happy.If there's any encouragment to be found here, it's that Redding is promoting the fire-extinguisher-style "break touchdown-removal glass only in case of emergency" approach we'd all like him to promote. But it's troubling that he doesn't offer any assurances that his officials will take that approach. In fact, it sounds as if he'd like to preemptively pass the buck:
"Don't hold me to that number, though" ...
When an official takes away a touchdown, Redding hopes the official takes the same [common-sense] approach.
"Make them almost the pull the flag out of your pocket for you," Redding says. "Make it so obvious that it just slaps you upside the head and you don't have to think about it."
"It's really up to the players," Redding says. "If they do what they're supposed to do, we won't have a problem. If they make the choice they should make and that the coaches want to make, there won't be an issue. But there will be somebody. They're teenagers, for goodness sake."They are, which is why it's hard to think of last year's wretched celebration call against Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl and not think that it wasn't the player in that instance who failed to "do what he's supposed to do."
At the very least, dead-ball calls like that one against the Wildcats still won't result in six points getting yanked off the board. But what we want, as college football fans, is to enter this season with some confidence that that same trigger-happy attitude won't nullify a perfectly good score at the perfectly wrong time.
That even the national coordinator of officials admits he can't do more than "hope" for the same "dream" and pawn the problem off on the players doesn't exactly fill us with that confidence. It doesn't even come close.