Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged
– The Beatles, “Get Back”
The Beatles sent the message out in 1969. Almost 50 years later, college football coaches are hearing it from officials.
Back on the sideline.
Coaches have been warned that in the coming 2017 season, they will be flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty if they step onto the field of play to argue a call or berate a referee.
University of Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks it’s about time.
“I think some of the things that’s happened in college football should not be tolerated,” Saban said at SEC Media Days in Hoover.
The emphasis on keeping coaches off the field isn’t a new rule, but Steve Shaw, the SEC coordinator of officials for the sport, said it will now be enforced nationally. He has gone over it with league coaches and shown them video of incidents that weren’t penalized in the past, but will be now.
“You know, we saw Steve Shaw showed us a lot of examples of coaches going all the way out to the hashmark,” Saban said, “and I think those coaches should have been penalized. And if those coaches were penalized, and we don’t have sort of that kind of tolerance for that kind of behavior, maybe we wouldn’t need a rule like this that is really sort of a sledgehammer.”
Shaw admitted that things have gotten out of hand, in part because college coaches are powerful.
“The coaches, especially the head coaches, they are the face of our game,” he said. “And so officials probably haven’t done as good a job as we should have done in keeping the sideline clear. So we’ve had coaches kind of come out on the field in protest.
“In fact, somebody said to me, you take a lot more off a coach than you ever would with a player. That’s very true.”
Not any more. Shaw said that a coach coming onto the field to protest or question a call will now be “an automatic” penalty.
But the rule goes further. A second unsportsmanlike call against a head or assistant coach will result in heavier punishment.
“One other thing I will remind you,” Shaw said, “a couple of years ago the change was made if you get two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in a game, you’re disqualified.
“So hopefully here we’re not doing this to penalize coaches. We’re doing this to change coaches’ behavior, keep them in the team area – in the white (boundary area) – if they want to have a discussion with our officials.”
In short, coaches will now have to exhibit the same kind of discipline and restraint that they implore players to exhibit.
Given that coaches are probably more likely to go off on officials in crucial, game-changing situations, a flag could affect the outcome of a game. Coaches understand this.
“I’m obviously concerned about it at a critical time,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said, “but it is the rule and we follow the rules. And I think as head coaches we’ve got to set a good example, and I think that’s what the rules are in place for.
“You’d hate to see a game decided by something like that, but it’s the rule. We’ve been briefed on it and we’ve got to adhere to it.”
Many programs, including Alabama, utilize support staff who are tasked to be “get-back guys” to corral the coaches and keep them from crossing the line.
“We’ve always had a get-back coach,” Saban said. “And we think we need more than one, maybe.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.