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2 NCAA coaches ejected this season. Are college conferences getting a backbone?

Is the tide turning with college football officials empowered to eject head coaches?



Commentary by Mark Schultz

For the second time in the 2021 college football season, a Division I-FBS coach has been ejected for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

This past Saturday, Mountain West Conference referee Christian Watson sent Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio to the showers before halftime.

While the announcers expressed shock at the ejection, a little research would have told them this is the second FBS head coach to get the gate in 2021.

For two generations, college and NFL officials have been taught to kill coaches with kindness. In the last 10 years, that approach has been less effective as coaches, for whatever reason, do not respond to an official’s kindness, and plow ahead and cuss out an official or stomp onto the field to visually show the official up.

In 2016, the NCAA changed the rules that called for a head coach to be automatically ejected if they are flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in a single game.

According to Quirky Research, this is only the third college football coach to be ejected ever – the first being Bethune-Cookman’s head coach in 2012, in a single, flagrant unsportsmanlike foul. Bethune-Cookman is part of the FCS (formerly Division I-AA).

Even though the two strikes and you’re out rule has been on the books for six years, no college head coach at any level has been ejected (although many have deserved it) until this year.

Now, comes an interesting question that I’ve been pondering. These 2021 ejections happened in the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference – two FBS conferences to be sure, but, let’s say they are not conferences that feature appointment-TV games for a majority of the football viewing public.

While I applaud both the MAC and MWC crews for ejecting a head coach (and, apparently the college conferences backing them up), we will truly have arrived at a new era when a Power 5 conference head coach is ejected with 90,000 fans in attendance and millions watching on TV. And, that ejection is then backed up by the conference commissioner.

Now, do I think referees should go into a game with an itchy trigger finger looking to eject coaches? Heck, no. Any official worth their salt would say that no one wants to see him flag a coach, let alone eject him. But, any official worth their salt would, and should, not be afraid to drop a second, disqualifying flag, on a coach who crosses the line and verbally abuses them or goes into physical histrionics to physically or mentally intimidate an official.

Let’s hope the tide keeps turning and coaches who deliberately (and believe me, it’s deliberate) cross the lines of sportsmanship are called to account by the officials.

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?"