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Forde-Yard Dash: College Football's Greatest Moments of Gridiron Disrespect

The Dash looks back at its favorite provocative moments, from flag-planting and trophy taunting, to hand-gesture controversies.
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where we’re all waiting for the Game of the Century Saturday between Connecticut and Massachusetts. Someone is going to win for the first time since 2019: 

MORE DASH: Playoff Debates | Love on the Rocks | Unbeaten Away Games

FOURTH QUARTER: GREAT MOMENTS IN GRIDIRON DISRESPECT

After SMU beat rival TCU in Fort Worth Sept. 25, the postgame celebration got spicy when Mustangs receiver Rashee Rice ran an SMU flag to midfield. That prompted the customary shoving and other puffery—but then SMU defensive back Brandon Crossley came back with the flag and planted it on the TCU logo. This led to TCU players tearing the flag off the pole, whereupon the flag was returned to an SMU player.

Given what came after, you would have thought one side or the other had lit the rival’s campus on fire. There was fury from Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson, who has a history of questioning the class of opponents who beat his team. In this case, Patterson said SMU’s flag plant was planned in advance and that TCU assistant Jerry Kill, who has epilepsy, was knocked down and got a concussion in the fracas—although Kill was knocked down by a Horned Frog. “He got pushed down by our kids once on film in the middle of it, and he got hit, because I've got the proof to show it,” Patterson said. “… At the end of the day, it wouldn't have happened if we didn't have the flag situation.”

SMU athletic director Rick Hart responded at length. Among his comments: "This activity was spontaneous and borne out of emotion. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible and offensive. I will not allow Coach (Sonny) Dykes, our program or our student-athletes to be unjustifiably attacked. Sonny is a tremendous leader and a man of great integrity."

It sure isn’t the Marines at Iwo Jima in terms of momentous flag plantings, but in Texas football, it was enough to escalate emotions. Thus another great chapter is added to the Class Wars of college football, where feelings are more easily hurt than might seem logical. Toward that end, here is a brief Dash compendium of famous provocative moments before, during or after games:

The Midfield Hostile Act (32). From SMU last month to Baker Mayfield in the Horseshoe in 2017 and certainly well before that, the celebratory flag plant after a road victory will always inflame the home team. But there are other methods as well, like Michigan’s Devin Bush scuffing Michigan State’s Spartan logo with his cleats in '18 after a brief dustup with some of the State players.

If the visiting team congregates in any fashion on or near the midfield logo, the home team is very likely to view it as an invasion with intent to insult. And since midfield is also where the coin toss occurs, on rare occasion one team will refuse to shake hands with the other, as Maryland did at Penn State in 2014. 

The Cavorting With the Spoils of Trophy Games (33). In Dallas on Saturday, players from the winning team will pose for pictures wearing that brass cowboy hat. The winning side in Minnesota-Wisconsin is going to run wild with an ax afterward. A pig statue will be held aloft like a golden idol at the end of Minnesota-Iowa. The dumber or more arcane the trophy, the more likely it will be used as a prop to taunt the losing team.

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The Lighting of Celebratory Tobacco Products (34). When Alabama wins in Knoxville—which is all the time since 2004—cigars will be smoked in the visiting locker room in a tradition that dates back to Bear Bryant. Auburn went one better in 1999 after upsetting LSU in Death Valley, smoking stogies on the field afterward. In what came to be labeled the Cigar Curse, Auburn lost in its next 10 trips to Baton Rouge before reversing the curse last Saturday.

The Exit/Entry Confrontation (35). Coaching staffs have gotten better at defusing pregame skirmishes, but back in the day there wasn’t much stopping Miami and Notre Dame from a spirited brawl outside the tunnel both teams had to use before the epic 1988 game. The Hurricanes ran through Notre Dame’s pregame warmups on their way back to the locker room, and by the time they reached the tunnel, it was on in full. According to reports, Notre Dame players acquired a Miami helmet (somehow) during the melee and never returned it.

The Mocking of Hand Signs (36). Florida State players will derisively do the Gator Chomp if they beat Florida. Gators will derisively do the Seminole Chop if they beat FSU. And, stop The Dash if you’ve heard this before, some opposing players have been known to turn Horns Down on Texas. If Oklahoma defeats the Longhorns Saturday, shield the eyes of children so they don’t see that traumatic image on the TV screen.

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Land Acquisition (37). Florida State has its famous Sod Cemetery, where it inters chunks of grass from big road wins. (The cemetery hasn’t had many new additions in a while.) Of course, if you don’t like a visiting team digging up your sod, payback is always an option. A year after the Seminoles left Clemson in 1988 with a victory and some Death Valley grass, the Tigers took some out of Doak Campbell Stadium after a victory and buried it beneath a headstone near its practice field.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Luke Fickell (38), Cincinnati. In the micro, Fickell’s Bearcats beating Notre Dame was both expected and predicted in this very column. But in the macro, whoa. Cincinnati, the eternally striving Power 5 outsider, went into Notre Dame Stadium and terminated a 26-game home winning streak for the Fighting Irish. And now 4–0 Cincinnati, with consecutive road wins over Power 5 competition, has a legit shot at a barrier-breaking College Football Playoff bid. Time to step back and appreciate Fickell’s work in elevating a consistently good program to legitimate powerhouse. Job well done.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Andy Avalos (39), Boise State. After being defeated at home by Nevada, this is the first time in 20 years that the Broncos have a losing record five games into the season. The comfort for Avalos, a rookie head coach, is that the last time it happened was the first year on the job for a guy named Dan Hawkins, who went merely 36–3 over his next three seasons. Time will tell if precedent is on Avalos's side, but for now he's dealing with diminished talent left behind by Bryan Harsin.

POINT AFTER

When thirsty in Chicago and searching for football—and sumo wrestling!—on TV, The Dash recommends a stop at Clark Street Ale House (40). On a Saturday night in late September, The Dash was amazed and amused to see every TV in the joint roll to sumo wrestling sometime after midnight, to the delight of most of the patrons in the place. (Who knew there is a sumo bar in Chicago?) When the matches were over, they briskly returned to #Pac12AfterDark programming. Check it out, order a Hop Prism Blue IPA from Noon Whistle Brewing, and thank The Dash later.

MORE DASH: Playoff Debates | Love on the Rocks | Undefeated Away Games

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