Opponents of the Texas Longhorns have been flashing more and more “Horns Down” hand signals in recent seasons, and the Big 12 attempted to put an end to it. They did not, and now the conference’s coordinator of officials is letting it be known the gesture is OK, as long as it doesn’t go too far.
Big 12 Coordinator of Football Officials Greg Burks explained the context for what would draw a flag on a “Horns Down” gesture to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN at Big 12 Media Days in Arlington, Texas. In short, as long as a player doesn’t flash it at an opposing player, it will probably not get flagged. Per Rittenberg’s report;
“Like any play, there is a degree — who it’s directed at,” Burks said Tuesday at Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. “If they do it in their bench area, we’re not going to look at it. It would be like any other celebration foul, so it has to be like any other foul we have. Does it rise to the level we need to deal with that? It’s a hot topic.
“I know people want us to be definitive on that, but it’s like any touchdown celebration. Is it directed at an opponent or just celebration with your teammates?”
One example used to emphasize the interpretation of the Big 12’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was last year’s game between West Virginia and Texas. In that game, WVU quarterback Will Grier flashed a “horns down” while celebrating a two-point conversion, and he was penalized for the celebration after flashing the symbol to the Texas fans. Because the gesture was aimed at the Texas fans, the penalty would still be called today.
Basically, the Big 12 officials will have to interpret how the gesture is being used. Is it being used in celebration purely between teammates or into a television camera? If so, then the flag should stay in the pocket. If the gesture is aimed at an opposing player or fans, then the flag will be thrown if it is witnessed by an official.
It’s one thing to say players should not flash a “horns down” anyway and show good sportsmanship, but on the other hand, if the players want to have fun and lash out at the opposing fans, a “horns down” is a far cry from the most offensive thing a player could do.