College football crackdown: Coaches told not to go on field to argue with officials

Kirby Smart and other SEC coaches will have to keep on the sidelines.

DESTIN, Fla. – The next time Will Muschamp, Nick Saban, Kirby Smart or any college football head coach runs onto a field to protest a call in a game, they’re going to be flagged.

That’s the result of a change in officiating, what the NCAA rules committee is calling a “heightened focus” on coaches not straying on to the field to argue with officials.

Coaches who enter the field of play to question, protest or otherwise demonstrate disagreement with an officiating decision are subject to an immediate 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Two such penalties lead to a coach being ejected.

“We haven’t said to them, gosh your toe was on it. We’re not going to be ridiculous,” said Steve Shaw, the SEC coordinator of officials. “What we’re saying to them is if you come out on the field of play and you protest a call, it’s unsportsmanlike.”

And when that happens, Shaw expects his officials to throw the flag. It would be “a bad day for that official” if he doesn’t, as Shaw put it.  And he said there will no special treatment.

“As coordinators we’ve all put our hands on the rulebook and said we’ll hold together,” Shaw said. “Because if we have a celebrity coach come out and do this and we don’t flag them, then it falls apart because every other coach says, ‘You didn’t flag him, why are you flagging me?’”

Every coach at the FBS has been addressed about this at their conference spring meetings.

Coaches can still argue calls as long as they stay in the team area on their sideline. Shaw said this would also put a burden on officials, who have to make sure they get to the sideline to talk to the coaches and offer an explanation for a call, and answer explanations. Shaw said he didn’t want his officials to run away from officials.

“If an official runs away from a coach, I don’t want him,” Shaw said.

That’s not to say coaches can’t come on the field anymore. Whether it’s coming out to check on injured players, or running out to call a timeout, or getting excited after a big play, Shaw said they don’t want that to be flagged.

“Our coaches are by and large very good. But they wouldn’t be in their job if they weren’t very intense,” Shaw said. “Our coaches are pretty good. They have a say, and then they move on. Now they’ve just got to do it in the white (part of the sideline).”

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