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NCAA officials should call more unsportsmanlike conduct fouls on coaches

While an overwhelming number of coaches at the college level behave themselves, it is time for officials to enforce the rules and hold coaches accountable.



Commentary by Mark Schultz

A few weeks ago, Jon Solomon of CBS Sports opined that it is time for college football officials to eject head coaches for over-the-top sideline unsportsmanlike conduct. I completely agree. While an overwhelming number of coaches at the college level behave themselves, it is time for officials to enforce the rules and hold coaches accountable. 

This past year, the NCAA adopted a rule that says officials should eject coaches for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in a game. This is the same as high school rules. Last year, NCAA officials did not eject a coach at any level.

Most coaches would tell you they go into histrionics to intimidate an official into giving him the next close call. Or, to blow off steam.

The NFL’s two-strikes-and-you’re-out rule applies to players only, not and coaches. [Updated 7/19 to reflect new wording in the NFL rulebook.]  No NFL coach has ever been ejected from a game, however if a coach physically confronts an official, the officials have the discretion to eject. The NFL casebook says if the 1995 incident where Steelers coach Bill Cowher stuffed a photo into referee Gordon McCarter’s pocket happens today, the officials must eject the coach.

The coach sportsmanship problem has grown over the years, especially at the college level. Football officials are not allowed to argue, yell or match insults with players or coaches. The kill-them-with-kindness approach helps diffuse confrontations. But, what happens when a coach openly intimidates the officials? It’s time to step up and flag out of control NCAA coaches.

West Virigina coach Dana Holgorsen’s display in this video (courtesy Fox Sports) does nothing to add to the game.

So, who shall be the first to eject a coach? Will supervisors support an official that uses the nuclear option?

Walt Anderson is an NFL referee and supervisor of officials in the Big 12 conference. He states in Solomon’s article that conferences will support more unsportsmanlike conduct flags.

We’re going to tell our officials, “We don’t want you going out looking to penalize coaches, but if it’s clear and obvious they’ve crossed the line, rather than continue to turn the other cheek, you need to flag them and we’re going to support you for doing that” … If we’re all consistent and someone complains you didn’t call it on the other guy, you say, “You’re right, but you deserved it. You’re the one who got clocked going 60 [miles per hour] in a 30 zone.”

Just as fans didn’t pay to see NCAA officials call a game, neither do fans pay to see coaches verbally abuse officials. It’s time for the small amount of out-of-control coaches to clean up their acts. It’s time for NCAA officials to eject the coaches who don’t.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"