No. 25 Washington tried something a little bit too cool at home against No. 12 Oregon Saturday afternoon. On a kickoff return after Oregon scored, Washington stashed purple-clad wide receiver Chico McClatcher in the end zone, where he laid down on the field in an attempt to blend in with the purple turf. (I, too, would do this if I found myself in a football game.) With McClatcher behind the ball, he was able to receive a pass from teammate Aaron Fuller, and had room to run to midfield. (I would not do this second part.)
Sadly, since this kind of neato deception is not allowed, the gain was wiped away and the referees gave McClatcher a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. ESPN’s rules expert Bill Lemonnier joined the broadcast to explain:
One of the things they put in a year or two ago was you cannot take a player and lay him down to decoy like he’s not on the field. And he laid down in the end zone to blend in with the end zone, so the kicking team couldn’t see him. Then he got up, and he’s the guy that caught the backward pass. That’s why it’s an unsportsmanlike conduct foul. But it was instituted a couple years ago because so many of the teams were doing deceptive things in relation to the color of their jerseys laying in the end zone.
Per a report in the Austin American-Statesman, following a TCU attempt at this in 2014, NCAA secretary-rules editor Steve Shaw sent a memo to game officials explaining that any players who “lay down and ‘hide’ in the end zone” or elsewhere on the field should be treated as injured and removed from the game for a play. Oregon State evaded a penalty on a similar play last year, but the Pac 12 later told the team the trick play shouldn’t be used.
Is it any surprise the NCAA has a precise way to harsh each and every college athlete’s groove?