Will “Horns down” be flagged this year? “It depends.”

WVU Football

Officiating chief touches on hot topic at Big 12 Football Media Days

Another “hot topic” came up on Day 2 of Big 12 Football Media Days. 

Greg Burks, the conference’s coordinator of officials, said referees could continue to penalize players who make the “Horns down” gesture during a game, but it all “depends” on the situation. 

“Like any play, there’s a degree, who it’s directed at. If they do it in their bench area, we’re not gonna look at it,” said Burks. “It would be like any other celebration foul, so it has to be almost like every other foul that we have. Does it rise to a level that we have to deal with that.” 

The “Horns down” controversy became a talking point within the league and around the country last season after West Virginia’s win over Texas. Both quarterback Will Grier and wide receiver David Sills V picked up 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during that game for making the gesture. 

In both instances, the former WVU players either made the gesture for a prolonged period of time or made the gesture directly to fans. Burks said if a similar scenario plays out in a game this season, it would warrant a flag again. 

“It’s like any unsportsmanlike act,” said Burks. “If somebody scores really quickly, turns to their cheering section, it’s real quick and moves on, we’re probably not gonna react to that. If they happen to turn to the other crowd or the other bench, or it’s prolonged to a player, it would be like any unsportsmanlike act.” 

Burks also referenced NCAA rule 9.1, which notes that unsportsmanlike conduct can be defined as any attempt by a player to focus attention on himself or incite an opponent or weapon in any way. 

“By rule, anything that brings attention to an individual rather than the team is a foul,” said Burks. 

But if plays flash the “Horns down” gesture in a different fashion — such as on the sideline — Burks said referees won’t look at it. 

“My advice is, if you want to do that, do it back in your bench area,” said Burks. “Do it back with teammates. Get away from where you’re an individual drawing attention to yourself.”

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