Big 12: 'Horns Down' OK, depending on usage

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Big 12 has a message for those thinking of making the "Horns Down" sign this season: Do it quickly and don't direct it toward opposing players.

Greg Burks, the Big 12 coordinator of football officials, said if a player quickly flashes the "Horns Down" after scoring a touchdown, he likely would not be called for a penalty. Prolonged displays of the signal, used for decades to mock the Texas Longhorns' "Hook 'Em Horns" sign, will be penalized, especially if directed toward an opposing player or at the opponent's bench.

"Like any play, there is a degree -- who it's directed at," Burks said Tuesday at Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. "If they do it in their bench area, we're not going to look at it. It would be like any other celebration foul, so it has to be like any other foul we have. Does it rise to the level we need to deal with that? It's a hot topic.

"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?"

The controversy over "Horns Down" resurfaced last season when West Virginia receiver David Sills V was penalized for making the sign after a first-quarter touchdown during the Mountaineers' win at Texas.

Dana Holgorsen, WVU's coach at the time, said he had asked the officiating crew before the game how the signal would be penalized and was told it would be if done in an intimidating fashion.

"I lit into David. 'I told you doing that s---, you're hurting the team,'" Holgorsen told ESPN this summer. "He goes, 'Coach, I barely did it.' So I went to the refs and I said, 'Who did he intimidate?' They go, 'He intimidated the crowd.' He intimidated the crowd, is what they said."

WVU quarterback Will Grier also was penalized for making the signal while celebrating the game-winning two-point conversation in the closing seconds.

Burks said Tuesday that a display similar to Grier's would likely again be penalized.

"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."