The Associated Press
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Given the attention on the NCAA’s unsportsmanlike conduct rule during the bowl season, it seemed natural coaches from both sides of the national championship game were asked about it on Sunday.
After all, the players are likely to be pretty excited in the biggest game of their season, if not their lives.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik says he’s often told the Tigers to immediately hand the ball to an official after scoring, taking away the temptation to do any grandstanding.
“We have done that to the best of our ability this year,” he said. “Hasn’t always been perfect. They know when it’s not perfect and they know that’s not the Auburn way, that’s not acceptable.”
The so-called celebration penalty came under scrutiny this season when officials flagged a Kansas State player for saluting after he scored a touchdown late in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse.
Wildcats receiver Adrian Hilburn had a 30-yard touchdown catch with 1:13 left, cutting Syracuse’s lead to 36-34. But when Hilburn got to the back of the end zone, he gave a quick salute to the fans in the stands.
Two officials from a Big Ten crew dropped flags and the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty meant the Wildcats had to go for the potential tying 2-point conversion from about the 17-yard line instead of the 2, where conversions are usually spotted.
Kansas State couldn’t convert and the Orange won by two.
“We talked to our players all the time about the situations that occur. And if you can use what happened in the Kansas State game as a teachable moment, we talk to our players about it,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “But we tell our kids they should celebrate as a team. You are not supposed to have undue people looking at just an individual, because it is a team game.”
Next season the NCAA will take points away for excessive celebration.
“It’s going to have a huge impact, there is no question about it,” said Chizik. “I don’t want to give my opinion about whether I think it is right or wrong, or whatever. It is what it is.”
Subbing: Auburn coach Gene Chizik intends to make sure the officiating crew is very cognizant of one rule in particular during the pre-game meeting.
When Oregon’s fast-paced offense brings in a substitute, the officials are supposed to make sure that the defense has enough time to follow suit.
“And that will be a very big discussion,” Chizik said.
It might not come into play all that frequently. Is the Ducks’ Chip Kelly concerned that the rule will slow it to a pace not to his liking?
“No, because we don’t sub,” Kelly said. “When we want to play fast, we know the rules. If we are trying to play at a fast tempo, we are not trying to sub in those situations. We understand the rules. And I’m sure the officials do, too.”
Who Invited Him?: Auburn is playing for its first national championship since 1957 and Alabama coach Nick Saban will be part of the festivities, working as a guest analyst for ESPN’s coverage of the BCS national championship game Monday.
For Tigers fans, it’s sort of like having your spouse’s former significant other at your wedding.
Ed Placey, ESPN senior coordinating producer for college football, said he hasn’t personally heard the complaints from Auburn fans, but he knows they’re out there.
“We knew it was coming,” he said. “Someone with Nick Saban’s credentials and certainly coming off a national championship and a person who, as most of Alabama knows and most of the country knows, is a straight shooter … those are the people that we want as part of our broadcast.”
The other guest analyst is another Auburn favorite, former Florida coach Urban Meyer.
Newton NFL: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton had no problem making the transition back from junior college to the Southeastern Conference. Chizik thinks the junior Heisman Trophy winner will be a success in the NFL, too, whether he enters the draft this year or next.
“When it happens, Cameron is an unbelievably gifted young man that’s going to bring a lot to the table to somebody,” the coach said. “And I think he’s got all of the things that it takes to be a great player at the next level. And there is no question in my mind that that is the case.”
Newton, almost certainly a first-round pick, hasn’t tipped his hand on whether he’ll return for his senior season. He spent two seasons at Florida before transferring to Blinn College in Texas.
Perspective: Oregon coach Chip Kelly said he talked to his team Saturday about the magnitude of the game, but his remarks were tempered when four kids from the Make-A-Wish Foundation visited practice.
“You tell your kids you are playing the game of your life and you’ve got four kids that are battling for their lives and all they want to do is meet our team,” Kelly said Sunday. “So I think it put it into perspective for our players.”
Moment of Silence: The victims of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson that targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will be remembered with a moment of silence before kickoff of the BCS title game. Flags at the Camelback Inn, which has been serving as the BCS headquarters in the days leading up to the game, were lowered to half staff on Sunday.
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