Coaches, NCAA back new effort

Updated: August 15, 2009, 11:25 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

College football teams are planning to start the season off on a courteous note.

As part of a sportsmanship initiative, the American Football Coaches Association and NCAA are encouraging schools to arrange teamwide handshakes on the field before kickoff.

Grant Teaff, executive director of the AFCA and former Baylor coach, says college football players and teams are in a pressure-packed environment and that encouraging respect and sportsmanship is important.

"It is symbolic," Teaff told USA Today. "But it is, we think, a very important initiative."

Coaches are required to shake before and after games, but having players do it in an organized way is new. The handshake is only planned for the first week of games, and is not mandatory, though Teaff says all schools have been asked to participate.

"I'd be surprised if the high, high majority of our teams do not participate in this," Teaff said, according to USA Today.

Teaff said the AFCA and the NCAA would talk further to see if they should make the pregame handshake routine, though he expressed uncertainty over the feasibility of it.

"I know basketball shakes hands after games, but football has a lot larger numbers and it's kind of burdensome and cumbersome. .. to do that," Teaff said, according to the newspaper.

The NCAA's football rules committee, meanwhile, is weighing its own sportsmanship-related measure. Taunts or showboating by players in mid-play -- for instance, as a ball carrier is five or 10 yards from crossing the goal line -- could be treated as live-ball rather than dead-ball fouls, potentially wiping out scores in the same way holding and clipping do.

The panel considered the change for the coming season and passed, but will look at the issue again next year, say its secretary and rules editor, Rogers Redding.

"I think the sense is it would stop it in a heartbeat," says Redding, the Southeastern Conference's coordinator of football officials.

"The issue is not around celebrating.. .. We want the [the players] to play with enthusiasm and celebrate with their teammates and enjoy the game. The line gets crossed when there's taunting and inciting."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.