SEC officials make right call on Horns Down penalty ahead of Texas move

Texas horns down (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Texas horns down (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Few hand gestures invite more scrutiny than the ‘Horns Down’ celebration/taunt. With the Texas Longhorns moving to the SEC, the conference has rendered a verdict on the legality of the controversial motion. 

The Texas Longhorns are set to join the SEC in 2024, further bolstering the most talented conference in college football. With the Longhorns eager to re-establish their reputation as a college football powerhouse, one critical issue remains unsolved… until now.

What about ‘Horns Down’?

The Big 12 was rather strict about opponents flashing the inverted Longhorns hand symbol to taunt Texas. Two fingers pointed to the ground in what looks something like a backwards “surf’s up!” could get a player penalized, or worse.

Will those ludicrously strict rules follow Texas to the SEC, where the fans are even crazier and the players are even more eager to participate in a bit of good-natured taunting? No. No they will not.

SEC will allow opponents to taunt Texas Longhorns with ‘Horns Down’ symbol (within reason)

John McDaid, the SEC’s coordinator of officials, put out a lengthy explanation of the SEC’s attitude toward ‘Horns Down’ and what fans can expect when 2024 rolls around.

Plainly put, don’t expect a penalty for ‘Horns Down’ unless it is targeted directly at a Texas player or accompanied by some other blatant form of disrespect. The Longhorns and their fandom will inevitably get salty no matter the context, but these taunts are generally in the spirit of competition and entertainment.

You’re not going to get far in the SEC without thick skin. The Longhorns will have to prepare for the forthcoming barrage of backward homage. One way to prevent the down-facing horns, of course, is to win games and not provide the opponent with an occasion to break them out.

Unfortunately for Texas, the SEC will give them test after test. The West alone features teams like Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Texas A&M. The Longhorns won’t catch many breaks in conference play and it will take a genuinely elite team to avoid a steady stream of losses each year.

The Longhorns have been knocking on the door of contention in recent years, but Steve Sarkisian’s team has been unable to get over the hump. Last season ended at 8-5 with a loss in the Alamo Bowl. There’s no denying Texas’ recruiting power in the Lone Star State. A move to the SEC should only increase their profitability and, by extension, their ability to upgrade facilities and attract recruits.

Alas, the Longhorns have been plagued with a lot of ifs, ands, or buts in Sarkisian’s two years at the helm. It’s more than fair to wonder if Texas is ready for the smoke that comes for every SEC team. If Texas is only a few games above .500 in the Big 12, things could get ugly in the SEC without significant — and immediate — growth.

If that growth doesn’t come, please prepare yourself mentally and physically for the onslaught of ‘Horns Down’ celebrations from opposing teams and fans.

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