Big 12 to give more leeway, may not penalize players for 'Horns Down'

Texas takes the Hook 'Em Horns sign very seriously. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Texas takes the Hook 'Em Horns sign very seriously. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Opponents of Texas may be able to get away with flashing the “Horns Down” sign without receiving a 15-yard penalty in 2019.

During Big 12 media days on Tuesday, Big 12 coordinator of football officials Greg Burks said there are some determining factors when deciding whether or not a flag will be thrown. For instance, if a player quickly flashes the “Horns Down” after scoring a touchdown, he probably won’t be penalized. However, if the player flashes it toward a UT player or the Texas bench, the flag for unsportsmanlike conduct will likely be thrown.

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“It's like any unsportsmanlike act. If somebody scores quickly, turns to their cheering section, and it's quick and they move on, we're not going to do anything with that,” Burks said. “If it's to a bench or to another player, and it's prolonged, it would be an unsportsmanlike act.”

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The “Horns Down,” of course, is used to mock Texas’ “Hook ‘Em Horns” sign by turning it upside down. It’s something Texas takes pretty seriously and there wasn’t much clarity from the Big 12 last year, leaving other teams wondering if it would be a penalty or not. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley even asked the league office about it before the Big 12 title game.

Moving forward, Burks said there are levels to how it will be interpreted, just like any other penalty for excessive celebration.

“Like any play, there is a degree, who it's directed at, if they do it in their bench area, we're not going to look at it. It would be like any other celebration foul,” Burks said. “I know people want us to be definitive on that, but it's like any touchdown celebration. Is it directed at an opponent or just celebration with your teammates?”

Two West Virginia players penalized

The issue became a topic of conversation when two West Virginia players were penalized for flashing the “Horns Down” signal against the Longhorns last November in Austin. First it was receiver David Sills who did it after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter.

In the fourth quarter, quarterback Will Grier flashed the “Horns Down” to the UT student section while celebrating the go-ahead two-point conversion with just 16 seconds left in the game.

Burks said a celebration like Grier’s would “probably” be penalized moving forward.

“That probably would be a foul in that situation. When we have discussed it, by rule, anything that's prolonged to bring attention to the individual rather than the team is a foul,” Burks said.

“My advice is if you want to do that, do it back in your bench area, do it back with teammates, get away from where you are an individual drawing attention to yourself.”

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