A part of Miami died this week.
Not the city, more like the legacy, old Miami football, the attitude. The NCAA football rules committee made sure of it, essentially taking a ball-peen hammer to the Hurricanes' own Mt. Rushmore.
|During this Brandon Spikes interception return for a score, does he taunt the opponents? (Getty Images)|
The memories have faded more than a little since the glory days of the 80s and early 90s. But the game is still paying a price for Miami's long-gone swagger. That had to be the conclusion when the rules committee endorsed a rule that would penalize teams for taunting on the way to the end zone.
Beginning in 2011 -- if the rule is rubber-stamped by an oversight committee -- points would be taken off the board if a player is flagged for a "taunting gesture" on his way to a touchdown.
What? Dance moves used to be a part of the Hurricanes playbook. Freshmen took "Yo' Mama Smack" as an elective.
The Miami defensive backfield used to smother receivers. Now the NCAA is smothering everyone.
Miami's old-school antics might have something to do with America's football youth gone wrong. But it isn't going to be cured by a judgment call that starts with an official asking himself: Did he or didn't he just thrust his pelvis in a suggestive manner?
Congrats rules committee, you've just mated the rulebook with Soul Train. The first time a flag is thrown regarding this new rule, who do we ask for an interpretation, the referee or the Chi-Lites?
Previously, this kind of conduct was met with a dead-ball foul. The preening player/team was penalized on the kickoff. Apparently, that wasn't enough.
The rules committee decided this time to become time travelers. Officials now will be allowed to "nullify the score" [NCAA's words] of an otherwise legal and obvious touchdowns because a player showed up the defense while running for a touchdown.
A game-winning score could turn into first-and-10 at the 40 for the offending team. A conference-clinching touchdown could be overturned because of a naughty shake of the hips. Fifty-five-year old insurance brokers with whistles are being asked to answer an awkward question:
Was that a touchdown run or the merengue?
Yes, you have Miami football to thank/blame.
The fire that once burned inside Hurricane football is barely a flicker these days. Oh, they're winning but the program continues to chase the past while the rules committee reacts to the legacy established by those outlaw Hurricanes of the past. Some would say overreacting.
The NCAA basically had enough after the 1991 Cotton Bowl when Miami beat Texas in more ways than one. The 46-3 Hurricanes victory was secondary to the 16 penalties for 202 yards.
"They said we'll give ya'll the penalties and still beat you," Texas' Grady Cavness said after the game.
"That's probably what tipped the scales, finally," said Dave Parry, the NCAA coordinator of football officiating.
Miami's conduct that day basically is contained in today's rulebook definition of "unsportsmanlike acts."
Obscene language ... pointing the fingers ... taunting ... baiting ... ridiculing an opponent verbally ... inciting an opponent ... simulating the firing of a weapon ... delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act ... to focus attention upon himself (or themselves).
Is it possible that the end of sportsmanship as we knew it was fun as hell to watch? No one got hurt. Much.
Before: The NCAA rulebook was a pamphlet. Now: It's jammed with stilted language that prohibits, "punching one's own chest or crossing one's arms in front of the chest while standing over a prone player."
Before: Hurricanes could be seen dancing in the end zone.
Now: Former Hurricanes can be seen on Dancing With The Stars.
Before: Miami was infamous for its brawls.
Now: It is complimented for playing nice with others.
"Those Miami kids are great, man," said an official who worked last year's Miami-Oklahoma game. "[Coach Randy Shannon is] a class act and his kids are a class act."
Almost makes you long for the old days when the mayhem at least had some style. In 1993, I covered a Miami game at Colorado. That's the closest I've seen a team go into the stands and fight 50,000 people. The lasting image is of a Hurricane twirling a pair of binoculars above his head almost daring the offended CU fan to come get them.
For better or worse, Hurricane football is reformed. Is college football?
"Here's really the crux of it," said Dave Parry, the NCAA coordinator of officials. "Players and coaches don't like the judgment calls of officials. Well, don't bring the judgment of the officials into it when you cross the goal line. Make it easy and don't do anything. I think that's where it's headed."
And maybe the rules committee has gone too far. Parry himself says a violation of the proposed new rule might come up only a handful of times during a season. At this week's meeting, the committee was shown 50 video examples of unsportsmanlike conduct, according to Parry. "Two or three," he said, contained violations of the new rule.
Officials have enough trouble watching for legitimate "points of emphasis" penalties -- head shots and blocking below the waist. It seems to distract from the mission that a game could be altered by a petulant offensive player showing the ball to a defender on his way to the end zone.
"We've seen more and more instances a kid scores and hands the ball to an official," Parry said.
So why go further with this silly new rule?
Maybe it's needed. Maybe not. Either way, we're seeing the last trickle down from those bad boy Hurricanes.
You can imagine the obvious complications ahead. One man's taunting gesture is another man's no-call. Adding one more judgment call to the rulebook is asking for trouble, especially when a game is on the line.
Pass interference is one thing but ask yourself: Do you want any game decided because it was determined Billy Bob crunked his way to the end zone?
The answer should be, no. But those Miami championship teams did more than thrill a city and rule a nation. Pride, Woofing, Arrogance and Intimidation got the attention of the rules police.