The LSU football team might be 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country, but there are still reasons to be grumpy in Tigertown.
This past week gave it to Tigers fans with both barrels when punter Brad Wing’s 52-yard fake run for a touchdown against Florida was shortened to a 44-yard scoreless scamper by the NCAA’s new, tougher taunting rule. Then CBS piled on by picking the Oct. 22 LSU-Auburn game for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff.
I needed instant replay to see Wing spread his wings in quick celebration at the 8 on his way into the end zone. But game officials saw it, pouncing on this heinous infraction by erasing LSU’s touchdown and backing the Tigers to the Florida 23. LSU settled for a field goal.
If absurd rules were touchdowns, this call would have been worth seven points. Certainly, out-and-out taunting has no place in college sports (neither does booing, but I digress). But to take points off for what Wing did is the epitome of overkill.
It’s football, people. Rules that protect player safety are fine, like the one against horse-collar tackling that wasn’t called when Florida brought down Spencer Ware by the neck (again I digress).
But why do we need rules to keep players’ feelings from being hurt? What do you think hurt Florida’s feelings more, that Wing flared his flaps or that the Tigers sautéed the Gators by 30?
Obviously the penalty wasn’t a factor in the outcome, but it could have been. This was a game between two ranked teams, and erasing a touchdown could mean someone’s season.
As I wrote in Sunday’s column, dock a team 15 yards on the extra point or the kickoff. But don’t take away points for taunting unless it’s something that looks a lot more egregious than Wing’s G-rated dance move.
It’s Rule 9, Section 2. And it has to change.
What will not change as long as LSU is in the Southeastern Conference are Tiger Stadium day games.
CBS picked up the option on a third straight LSU contest Monday with its decision to show the Auburn game. That means LSU will go without playing a night home SEC game for the first time since 1935. To many LSU fans, taking away their night games is like spraying graffiti on a church.
It’s sad, it tramples tradition, but it’s the invoice for winning so much.
There is a solution, and it doesn’t require LSU moving to the Big East: Start losing again. I covered plenty of night games in Tiger Stadium in the 1990s, dark years for LSU football and not just because of the kickoff times.
Fans may pine for the SEC to hook up with ABC, which shows a prime time game every week (CBS does one per season). But ABC doesn’t offer the SEC what CBS does: exclusivity. It pays the bills and is great exposure for recruiting.
If a few night games are the price LSU has to pay to continue to attract top players, to keep winning, it’s a price worth paying.
Now pass the sunscreen.