Mon Sep 12 12:06pm EDT
If I had to guess, I'd say most of you have been quietly praying for the better part of a decade for someone to finally throw a flag on Oregon's ever-evolving assault on traditional football fashion. For traditionalists, hating the Ducks' garish unis has almost become a tradition in itself.
Alas, the highlighter socks and "carbon" helmets and duck-winged jerseys remain legal. But according to the interim head of Pac-12 officiating, Mike Pereira, there is hope yet for barring another element of Oregon's in-your-face repertoire: The "O" hand signal. Here's Pereira over the weekend with a pointed wag of the finger:
Here's Pereira in handy blockquote form:
"That's not a salute to the military. Nor is that a praise to God. I think this borderlines on being unsportsmanlike conduct. And really what you want to do is not do something like this, so that you can actually take the officials out of that. I would say this: I'll go so far as to guarantee you that Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks will get a phone call this week and tell them that 'You need to stop doing this.' ...
"Why do I guarantee it? Because I'll [be the one to] make it."
So there you go. You hire a guy from the NFL, you get tried-and-true NFL tone deafness. Is Pereira going to call Nike to politely ask it to stop making gloves specifically designed to form the "O" when players put their hands together? What about Oregon fans? Should they stop, too? Is it going to apply to other teams that do it, or only the Ducks? Won't someone please think of the children?
In fact, Oregon isn't the first team threatening the sanctity of the game with a little O-shaped swagger: Ohio State was flagged twice in last year's rout over Michigan for the same thing, also while wearing Nike gloves that practically begged players to put thumbs and forefingers together.
The penalty was dumb then, and if Pac-12 officials actually break out the flags against Oregon it will be dumb then, too. But given that we're dealing with the discretion of mostly middle-aged men when it comes to interpreting the actions of college-aged men, the Ducks would be just as dumb if they went on doing it in the face of Pereira's warning. Justified, maybe, and kind of metal. But still dumb.
UPDATE, 6:11 p.m. ET. Pereira, responding to an obvious outpouring of criticism following his video, wrote this afternoon that the 'O' is okay, after all — just as long as it meets a few vague, easily misinterpreted conditions:
I told them it is OK for Oregon players to quickly flash the "O" sign to celebrate a good play. But it must not be prolonged and cannot be directed at an opponent. Doing it the way the Ducks do it is fine.
I reached this conclusion after talking with the Pac-12's coordinator of officiating, Tony Corrente, and the NCAA's national coordinator of officiating, Rogers Redding. Both told me that the Ducks' "O" is legal. Plus, if the Ducks flashing the "O" sign were deemed to be illegal, then the same would have to be said for the University of Texas and many other teams with similar school salutes.
That being said, if the salute is directed at an opponent in a taunting gesture, it would be deemed to be a foul.
So there you go, again: Pac-12 officials will have the discretion to determine the appropriate duration and intent of a player holding his hands in the shape of a letter of the alphabet, with no specific guidelines. What could possibly go wrong?