by Jim Buzzrrd
Last week the Big 12 Conference held their annual football media get together in Dallas. There wasn’t much buzz there about West Virginia University this year. Last year there was plenty of hype with WVU pushing forward with Will Grier’s Heisman campaign. This year there is a ton of uncertainty surrounding the Mountaineers. Grier is gone and so are his top three receivers. A new coach is on hand after eight seasons with Dana Holgorsen who departed for the University of Houston.
I wouldn’t say new head coach Neal Brown inherited an empty cupboard, but the roster he has to work with is very young and thin in a lot of areas. That’s why the media pre season poll picked WVU to finish eighth in the conference this season. Only offensive tackle Colton McKivitz was named to a preseason all conference team. Things may seem bleak for the upcoming season, but there will be time to go into that in the upcoming weeks.
One topic discussed at the media days last week that caught my eye was the discussion about the “horns down” penalty. If you recall, the Mountaineers were flagged twice in the game at Texas last season for flashing the horns down hand sign, which is Texas’ hook’em horns sign turned upside down. David Sills was penalized after a touchdown and so was Grier after he scored on a two-point conversion to give WVU a 42-41 lead. There was discussion afterwards by the staff as to when flashing horns down had become a penalty.
Last week the question was put to Big 12 director of officiating Greg Burks. “If somebody scores quickly, turns to their cheering section, and it’s quick and they move on, we’re not going to do anything with that,” Burks said. “If it’s to the bench or to another player, if it’s prolonged, it would be an unsportsmanlike act.
“It’s a hot topic. I know people want us to be definitive on that, but it’s like any touchdown celebration. Is it directed at an opponent, or just celebration with your teammates? What if they direct it at fans?”
Burks said Will Grier’s flashing of the sign after scoring a go-ahead 2-point conversion at Texas last season was correctly penalized.
“That probably would be a foul in that situation,” Burks said. “Anything that’s prolonged to bring attention to the individual rather than the team is a foul.”
“My advice is if you want to do that, do it back in your bench area, back with your teammates,” Burks said. “Get away from where you are an individual drawing attention to yourself.”
I fully support most celebration penalties, but I’m not sure horns down is what I had considered a celebration. Anyway, we’ll see how it all unfolds this season. My question is if the horns down hand sign can be penalized, will the officials penalize the horns up hand sign if it’s used in a celebratory manner?