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Tuesday March 19, 2013 A look at NCAA taunting rules in basketball and football (i.e. Henderson and Gator Chomps)

Updated: 12:45pm, March 19

Since most of you who visit this blog regularly follow the Gators closely, by now you have probably seen the above video of Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson taunting Florida fans with a Gator Chomp.

Henderson’s taunts came after his 3-pointer put the Rebels up 59-53 late in the second half of Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship.

Henderson is a player you either love or hate. Rebels fans love him. Florida fans and Auburn fans and Missouri fans mostly stand on the opposite side of the fence.

The SEC isn’t quite sure what to make of him. Henderson was named the tournament’s MVP Sunday but was not invited to the postgame press conference after some off-the-wall comments after Friday’s game. Henderson is playing his first season in the league, but you could say he has a history. You may remember Henderson taunting Auburn fans earlier this season. He also interacted with the crowd at Tennessee.

In the Rebels’ victory over Missouri on Friday, Henderson taunted the Tigers by zooming by their bench as they prepared to huddle for a timeout late in the game. Only a couple of Tigers shook Henderson’s hand after the game and Missouri assistant Dave Leitao was clearly upset at Henderson’s antics.

In the wake of Henderson’s Gator Chomps on Sunday, several Florida fans have either emailed or asked on Twitter why Henderson wasn’t called for a technical foul for taunting in Sunday’s game the way a football player would have been called for an unsportsmanlike penalty.

It’s a good question. In a hypothetical sense, if Henderson played receiver for the Rebels and caught a touchdown pass late in the game, and then Gator Chomped Florida fans sitting in the end zone, Ole Miss would be flagged a 15-yard penalty to be assessed on the ensuing kickoff.

For a comparison between the official rules on taunting in NCAA Division I basketball and football, here is how the rulebooks address the infraction in relation to Henderson’s Gator Chomps:

NCAA Basketball 2012-13 Rulebook

Rule 10 – Fouls and Penalties

Section 5 (Men) CLASS A Unsporting Technical Infractions

Article 1 A player or substitute committing an unsportsmanlike act including, but not limited to, the following:

b. Using profanity or vulgarity; taunting, baiting or ridiculing another player or bench personnel; or pointing a finger at or making obscene gestures toward another player or bench personnel.

c. Inciting undesirable crowd reaction.

PENALTY: Two free throws shall be awarded to any member of the offended team.

RESUMPTION OF PLAY: For any technical foul(s), play shall resume at the point of interruption except for a single flagrant 2 technical foul or a single contact dead ball technical foul (Article 1d through 1i). For a single flagrant 2 technical foul or a single contact dead ball technical foul, the ball shall be awarded to the offended team at a designated spot at the division line on either side of the playing court

Based on the ruling above, most notably Article 1c, officials were within their authority to have called a technical foul on Henderson, which would have resulted in a pair of Florida free throws and continued possession of the ball.

Meanwhile, a look at the football rule on taunting, which is more in-depth and went into effect starting with the 2011 season and included a significant revision: players caught taunting opponents on the way to scoring a touchdown would cost their team the score and be penalized 15 yards from the point of the infraction.

NCAA Football Rulebook

Rule 9 – Conducts of Players and Others Subject to the Rules

Section 2 Unsportsmanlike Conduct Fouls

Article 1 There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct or ay act that interferes with orderly game administration on the part of players, substitutes, coaches, authorized attendants or any persons subject to the rules, before the game, during the game or between periods. Infractions for these acts by players are administered as either live-ball or dead-ball fouls depending on when they occur.

a) Specifically prohibited acts and conduct include:

1) No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threating or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:

a) Pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat

b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally

c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition

d) Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)

PENALTY: Live-ball fouls by players: 15 yards.

For those who have asked, now you know the official rules. Ultimately, though, the officials’ actions in the heat of the moment matter most.

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