Welcome back to Going Bowling, coming to you live from the press box at Charlotte's Bank Of America Stadium, where Clemson and South Florida are about to square off in the Meineke Car Care Bowl (Friday, noon ET, ESPN).
If you're just joining us, welcome aboard. Sure, the rest of the nation may be caught up in Bowl Fever now, but we've been obsessing over all things bowl-related every Friday since late August! Why? Because we love us some bowl games. As you're about to learn, the players do, too. And it's not just because of the cool swag or even the scoreboard.
But first, let's talk about "The Call That Rocked The House That Ruth Built" -- shall we?
The Zebra Report: All celebrations not created equal
In the hour that followed Thursday night's controversial celebration penalty at the end of the Pinstripe Bowl, I chatted via phone or e-mail with a half-dozen FBS college football officials. My question to each of them was the same: Would you have thrown that flag in that situation?
All six, four of whom were on the road to work a bowl game of their own, asked not be identified. As one explained, "Everyone else already questions everything we do, so we don't make it a habit of bashing one another." (Full disclaimer: My father, a retired ACC and Big East field judge, was not one of the men I polled. I think he was on a date.)
First things first, here's ESPN.com Big East blogger David Ubben's conversation with the referee (guy in the white hat) from the Big Ten crew that worked the game.
The final summation of my very non-scientific survey (conducted long before Ubben's story was posted) was uniform across the panel: Had the post-TD salute happened in the first three quarters, they would have thrown the flag without hesitation. However, in that situation, with the game clearly on the line, they all agreed that their flag would have had a pretty good chance of staying in their pocket.
But they were also quick to defend the Big Ten crew that made the call.
"When it happened, my phone just blew up," said one back judge that I talked to. "My officiating friends all over the country had the exact same reaction, which was, 'Oh man, I can't believe that kid just did that.' By rule, it is a penalty. You have to call it. But there are definitely situations where ... I guess the best way to put it is that you just don't see it. Get busy bringing the new ball in and getting set for the extra point. If you don't make the call, the complaining lasts about five minutes from only one sideline. Make that call and you end up leading 'SportsCenter' all night."
"But again," he added quickly, "the rule is the rule and that is a penalty, so you can understand why it was thrown. And there were two flags thrown, not just one. And they came out simultaneously, not one in reaction to the other. So the call was pretty adamant."
If you don't make the call, the complaining lasts about five minutes from only one sideline. Make that call and you end up leading 'SportsCenter' all night.
"-- an NCAA official