A salute, 15 men on the field while the offense is trying to kill the clock and an undefeated team that won the Rose Bowl has no shot at the national title. While that doesn’t come close to summing up the college bowl season thus far, it provides plenty of fodder for fans to chew on this week.
The infamous salute came at Yankee Stadium near the close of the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl by Kansas State’s Adrian Hilburn after scoring a late touchdown to pull the Wildcats within two points of the Orange. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty — presumably because Hilburn was “calling attention to himself” — forced Kansas State to try the two-point conversion from the 18-yard line rather than the 3-yard line. Big difference. Kansas State’s pass fell incomplete, and the Wildcats were left with only the hope of recovering an onside kick.
After watching the replay about 27 times, I still don’t see why that should be a penalty. I don’t think that salute should be a penalty on Oct. 4, much less in a bowl game. I can understand the NCAA wanting to crack down on celebrations, during the regular season especially. But let’s allow the players to have a little fun in bowl games. So the refs need to loosen up a bit during bowl season. It’s clear that the NCAA considers the bowl games to be special and apart from the regular season anyway judging from the suspension of five Ohio State players for five games — next season — but allowing them to play in the Sugar Bowl.
I’m sure the chaotic end to the Music City Bowl will draw attention from the rules committee. The NFL figured this out several years ago, instituting a 10-second runoff on offensive penalties in the waning minutes. I believe the refs followed the rules correctly and ruled accordingly at the end of regulation of the Tennessee-North Carolina game. But how fair was that? First of all, North Carolina’s — dare I say stupid? — clock management was deserving of a loss in and of itself. But allowing a team to have enough time for one last play because it commits a penalty just doesn’t feel right.
And what will the BCS do about TCU? Okay, beginning in 2012, TCU, specifically, will no longer be a concern of the BCS since the Horned Frogs will be in the Big East. But there’s still next year and Boise State. And only a matter of time before another non-BCS team defeats one of the big boys in a BCS bowl to go undefeated and create national title arguments. That doesn’t even address the possibility of having three undefeated BCS conference teams. Only two can play for a title in the current format. The NCAA will continue to hear from fans and sponsors to move toward settling the national title more clearly on the field.
But until then, I’ll continue to enjoy the final week of bowl season as always.