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Friday, December 31, 2010
Plenty of views to 'The Bronx Salute'

By David Ubben

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If you tuned into SportsCenter at all in the past 24 hours, you saw a few sad Kansas State players early in the program reacting to receiver Adrian Hilburn's now-infamous "Bronx Salute" that caused a controversial end to the Pinstripe Bowl.

Adrian Hilburn
Kansas State's Adrian Hilburn, right, was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after scoring this touchdown against Syracuse.
The issue is obviously among the hottest of buttons, but guess who took to the microphone on Friday morning? The chairman of the NCAA Football Rules Committee.

His name? Randy Edsall, also known as the coach of the Connecticut Huskies.

Edsall admitted his own son Corey, 17, had something to say after the call.

"That's a crazy rule," Edsall says he told him.

Which really, in this whole issue, is the problem. Edsall made it clear that the rule was applied as it should be.

"We try to tell our kids all the time, you just can't bring attention to yourself. When we see it, if they do it, we try to make sure we correct it in practice," Edsall said. "You know, it is just an indication of -- you watch the play, and did the young man maybe think it was just spontaneous, he did it? It is unfortunate, but that is the rule, bringing your attention to that."

By the letter of the law, I agree. But like I wrote yesterday, in that situation, where a flag has such a profound impact on the outcome, it can't be thrown on such an innocuous action. According to the Insider blog of ESPN's Ryan McGee, officials he spoke with agree.
"By rule, it is a penalty. You have to call it. But there are definitely situations where ... I guess the best way to put it is that you just don't see it. Get busy bringing the new ball in and getting set for the extra point. If you don't make the call, the complaining lasts about five minutes from only one sideline. Make that call and you end up leading 'SportsCenter' all night. But again, the rule is the rule and that is a penalty, so you can understand why it was thrown. And there were two flags thrown, not just one. And they came out simultaneously, not one in reaction to the other. So the call was pretty adamant."

All good points. McGee spoke with six officials who all requested to remain anonymous. Four were on the road working bowl games of their own, and one Midwestern referee took the viewpoint you'll probably find from most fans.
"If it's a throat slash or the guy starts break-dancing, like something we've seen Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens do, then it's unavoidable. But something like a salute or just standing there with his hands on his hips, it leaves the window open to warn the kid not to do it again and move on."

That official's last point is exactly what Bob Stoops had to say when asked about it at this morning's pre-Fiesta Bowl press conference (no, by the way, they're not playing that actual game. Instead, it's been replaced with a roundtable on the Pinstripe Bowl flag). He says he talks to his team about it constantly, and did so before the Big 12 Championship game, too.

Sooners receiver Kenny Stills was flagged for a celebration earlier this year against Texas Tech when he celebrated a long touchdown by jumping and spiking the ball between his legs.

"The enforcement of it, it's not for me to say. But what I do know is what our players -- what's explained to them is it is a judgment call. Everybody's judgment is different," Stoops said. "So if you open the door for it to be called, then don't be -- if it is called, don't be saying 'All I did was this.' You opened the door, gave them the opportunity, and everybody's judgment's different. So don't go there. And hopefully our players will abide by the rules."

Windows, doors, it's all the same, I suppose. A great answer by Stoops, I thought.

Regardless, getting rid of the gray area is something Edsall says is a priority. Later in the night, several players from Tennessee had far more animated (read: harmlessly entertaining) celebrations than Hilburn's simple salute, but didn't draw flags for any of them.

"I do think that there is some inconsistencies maybe between conferences. I think we're getting closer. I think we're getting closer with the new officiating group that's a national officiating group that has been formed," Edsall said. The crew in the Pinstripe Bowl were Big Ten officials.

"All of the conferences should be interpreting and calling everything the same way. It shouldn't be that the particular supervisor from a particular conference is going to interpret things this way, we're going to enforce things this way. Everything has to be together, so when you do get these situations, the kids -- you know, it is really for the kids' sake, that they know how the game is always going to be called."

Lots of sensible points being made all over the place, but black, white or gray, none of it will keep Kansas State fans from feeling a little blue heading into the New Year.