The overly-cautious, politically correct rules of the No Fun League have snaked their way into college football.
Diehard football fans were worried this would happen, and it finally hit the collegiate gridiron a few weeks ago in what could be the first of many "censorship" rules to keep college football robotic and as gray as possible.
The NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved three rule changes, one of which cracks down on expression from student-athletes.
Beginning in 2011, players will not be allowed to write messages or symbols on eye black.
Why? It's not a huge change, it wont drastically alter the game, but why is there a need?
Maybe it's because Tim Tebow of Florida wrote Bible versus on his eye black, something he became quite known for.
The NCAA would never admit to Tebow's religious inscriptions being the reasoning behind the ban, but he was the most prominent figure for this sort of thing.
So what if th rule change is because the NCAA doesn't want anything that might start a holy war? Are they worried because Tebow – or any future players – will offend players of different religions?
Since this has already come to fruition, why stop there? Ban players from raising two fingers to the sky to symbolize thanking God for their touchdown or sack. What's stopping the NCAA from penalizing players who take a knee in prayer after scoring or before games?
Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State wears a Block O on his eye black – so?
Is it that easy for someone to take exception with Reggie Bush of USC writing an area code on his?
To go to the pro ranks, LeBron James has his area code tattooed on his forearm (although apparently he doesn't care about those numbers). Should the NBA ban that as well?
I'd be interested to see how many college football players have a tattoo displaying their area code or hometown. Will they have to cover it up?
Before all that, Pryor had "Mike Vick" on his eye black in support of the unthinkable acts committed by Michael Vick in his dog fighting case. Personally, I'm not sure I've ever supported something less, but Pryor has freedom of speech and he's not hurting anyone by doing that. Was is popular? No. Should he have done it? Most would say no. Was it his right to do so? Yes.
The NCAA doesn't want to give student athletes any freedom at all because eventually someone will have a marijuana leaf or something overly political or some nonsense like that under their eyes on Saturday. That's probably true, and student-athletes will take advantage and see how far they can take it. OK, ban anything that could be linked to drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever.
Perhaps a partial ban will be counterproductive, as rejections over which should be banned and which shouldn't could surface every weekend. Banning eye black messages that are clearly geared toward sex, drugs or crime would not be too difficult to enforce.
A partial ban and a couple of grievances by those who feel they have been wrongly accused is better than total censorship.
Why can't student athletes express themselves? I thought college was a place of personal development and emergence where one could express and discover himself or herself.
If you're banning Bible versus as too religious, where do you draw the line if you're the NCAA? If you ban religion on eye black, how can you not ban religion on the field, sidelines or locker rooms?
Can players still say a prayer before games? That's a rather obvious display of religion--why is that allowed? If the NCAA wants to stay uniformed in how it governs and is worried about eye black messages getting out of hand, then players shouldn't be allowed to point fingers to the sky, cross their shoulders or take a knee and bow their heads.
I hope players can still say prayers, because if the NCAA takes after the NFL in how controlled (boring) and politically correct (cautious) the NFL has become, they'll need those offerings to side-step the "No Fun League" label and the negative media attention the pro game has garnered.
Again, this isn't an earth-shattering crackdown in an effort to create mindless student-athletes. This isn't the NCAA stepping in to drastically change how the game is perceived in one, fatal swing.
But I fear this is the first step in a long line of rule changes made mostly in the name of political correctness (they also increased the seriousness of taunting/celebration penalties).
If the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel follows the same path of the NFL in how politically correct (and thus, bland) they try to make the game of college football, I'll take them to court and in an effort to leave the game as it is, call a "recess" every Saturday in the fall.