If there is a single penalty in college football that C&F really, really hates, it's the unsportsmanlike penalty call for excessive celebration. And a flag against Jake Locker during the BYU-Washington game is a perfect example of why.
Following the penalty, BYU blocked Washington's point-after attempt, winning the game. The flag cost the Huskies a chance to win the game in overtime.
Now, you can make a reasonable argument that, by throwing the ball in the air, Locker did violate the rule and thus should have been flagged. Which is insane. But that's the rule.
This is hardly the first time the rule has been shown to be a farce in late-game situations. The college football world was denied a potentially thrilling upset in 2005 when Vanderbilt scored a last-minute TD against Florida and was ready to for two to win the game. But the Dores were flagged for celebration, took the single point and lost the game in overtime. It didn't help that the call was horribly overblown; the penalty never should have been called in the first place.
The biggest problem I have with the rule is that the penalty is far, far too harsh. By making it a personal foul and a 15-yarder, the NCAA is essentially saying that celebrating too much is as bad as pulling someone down by the facemask, hammering the quarterback after he's thrown the ball, hitting a player late or leading with the helmet. In other words, infractions that can cause injuries.
Last time I checked, the only thing excessive celebration can hurt is someone's feelings.
A call that is so subjective and so inane should not change the face of a game. I still question whether any celebration but the most Chad Johnson-esque should be punished at all. But if a player is going to be flagged every time he tosses the ball in the air, it certainly shouldn't be 15 yards.
Players are going to celebrate. College football is an emotional game, and it should be. To try to rip out the heart of the game, as this rule does, is an insult to fans and players.
If you want a game without heart, without a the kind of spirit that occasionally produces a celebration, watch croquet. But leave football alone.