By the letter of the law, what Kansas State receiver Adrian Hilburn did in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday evening warranted a flag.
Technically, by saluting to the crowd after he scored a 30-yard touchdown reception to get the Wildcats within a two-point conversation of tying the game with 1:24 remaining on the clock, he did draw attention to himself.
But come on, did this…
…really warrant a flag? It’s not like he did back flips across the end zone or pull something out of the goal post a la Joe Horn. It’s not like he held up a sign that read, “HEY, LOOK AT ME!” or wheel a Bowflex machine onto the field and start doing a workout.
He saluted the crowd, which was less harmless than what most players do to celebrate a touchdown.
The problem with the NCAA’s rule on end zone celebrations is that it’s way too subjective. After watching Hilburn get flagged for saluting the crowd in the Pinstripe Bowl, I watched Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray do an assortment of things after every touchdown pass he threw in the Music City Bowl (which directly followed the Pinstripe Bowl on ESPN) and nothing happened to him. I could have sworn the kid was in interpret theater with the way he waved his hands and arms after every touchdown.
For the record, I have no problem what Bray did, although I must admit I started laughing when he threw the game-sealing interception in overtime after he had basically mocked the North Carolina sidelines following a touchdown pass on the previous possession. But tell me why he wasn’t flagged for throwing up hand gestures after touchdowns but Hilburn was? Bray was technically drawing attention to himself, just as Hilburn did.
If the NCAA wants to enforce a rule, it should do so across the board for every game. Refs shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose what they deem as a player drawing attention to himself. Either that, or they should really ask themselves what constitutes “excessive” before throwing a flag.