NCAA asks NFL to help solve college football's taunting non-problem

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Won't someone please think of the minimally compensated children?

This week, people deemed important are declaring various things. Yes, the NFL is holding its annual offseason meetings.

In addition to banning even more touchdown celebrations and adjusting a number of rules that actually affect competition, the league explained via St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher that it's going to reinforce its taunting rule. This was likely judged a more elegant way to penalize the use of a specific racial epithet than installing a new rule, which would immediately be nicknamed after that epithet.

In an unexpected twist, Fisher noted the NFL's redoubling of its taunting rule is in part due to the pro league's alleged trickle-down effect on other levels of football:

While explaining it in this way does point toward a reasonable case for the NFL's decision, it also satisfies branding aims for both the NFL and the NCAA. For the NFL, it again casts the league as the model, example, and standard, simultaneously towering over all and lighting the way. For the NCAA, it plays up the sportsmanship bullshit again.

The NCAA is obsessed with the idea of sportsmanship, the idea that there's more to a game than which side wins. And there's a smart business reason for that.

March Madness commercials remind us that college athletes aren't here to win championships and make money; they're here to become better people by playing college sports. This has been a profitable position for the NCAA for decades, but probably not for much longer.

College football, the sport decades older than either the NCAA or the NFL, is now both a game played by semi-adults and a 10-figure business in which the labor has no way to lobby for greater compensation limits (yet). Neither of these things necessitates no-fun laws, but the NCAA has only one business model, and it'll defend it as long as it can.

Anti-celebration rules have never squared with the howling passion that floods the sport's stadiums. Conferences are able to sign 20-year media deals to launch their own 24-hour networks. This is thanks almost entirely to their reservoirs of unrestrained football fans. But the athletes themselves must act like professionals, so as not to resemble the actual professionals.

To that end, the NCAA's never run short of celebration penalty ideas, from the 1991 "Miami rules," which essentially banned any specific thing any Hurricanes player had done over the previous decade, to recent changes that gave referees the power to time travel. The results have stricken the greatest moment in recent punter history and nearly helped cost Florida State a title, and mostly just bummed everybody out a little.

I watch a lot of college football, and I don't see very much taunting as of late. The only egregious example I can think of from last season is the MTSU player who was ejected for acting in a fashion most would consider dickheadish against Navy. As for NFL influence, a lot of players have started using Sean Weatherspoon's eat-'em-up thing, but nobody's offended by that.

You'd have a hard time explaining what it is that current college players are doing wrong as a result of NFL players having too much fun, but presenting things exactly as they are has never been an NCAA specialty.

With that, take it away, 'Canes:

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