'Horns Down comes up again at Big 12 Media Days

Oklahoma fans use the ‘Horns Down symbol during the Sooners’ game against Baylor on Sept. 29, 2018, at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Using the symbol in a game can result in a penalty, but there’s a gray area.

ARLINGTON, Texas — There was a fervor last season when it was announced that use of the ‘Horns Down symbol could result in a penalty. 

Little clarity has been offered since.

Big 12 coordinator of officials Greg Burk said Tuesday that the consequences remain up for interpretation.

“The answer I will give you is, ‘It depends,’” Burk said. “It’s like any unsportsmanlike act. If somebody scores quickly, turns to their cheering section, and it’s quick and they move on, we’re not going to do anything with that. If it’s to a bench or to another player, and it’s prolonged, it would be an unsportsmanlike act. Like any play, there is a degree, who it’s directed at, 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.

“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.”

Texas coach Tom Herman finds the situation somewhat funny. And he still isn’t a fan of the hand gesture.

“I think it’s flattering that we’re on so many people’s minds that they continue to use that disrespectful hand signal,” Herman said. “Taunting is taunting.”

• Mayfield trash talk ‘irrelevant’: Herman also weighed in on former OU quarterback Baker Mayfield’s public shots at Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

Mayfield prodded Ehlinger recently, recalling his poor record against Mayfield’s high school alma mater, Lake Travis, and also saying Texas hasn’t returned to national prominence yet.

“I would be lying if I told you I don’t know what you’re talking about — I certainly do, but it’s irrelevant,” Herman said. “What other people say about us and our program, it really doesn’t faze us. So the irrelevancy of it was at an all-time high.

“We had a bowl game recently where the other team was very disrespectful, and that gave us motivation leading up to the bowl game. Sam loves to play with a chip on his shoulder, and I’m sure he will use this to crank it up a notch.”

• Targeting change: One rule tweak Burk announced is that all targeting calls will be reviewed, and every element of targeting must be confirmed for a player to be disqualified.

“It’s a little bit of a distinction in that in the past, a call on the field would stand if there wasn’t anything to demonstrate that all elements were present,” Burk said. “So in the replay booth this year, all elements of targeting must present themselves or the call will be overturned. It’s a small distinction, but I think instead of going to the assumption that the call on the field was correct, because of the penalty being as severe as it is with disqualification this year, every one of those plays will be completely reviewed and if one of the elements of targeting is not there, the call will be overturned.”

That was one beef OU coach Lincoln Riley had with the targeting rule, that its consequences were too severe considering the rule’s gray area.

“I’m excited to see the new rule changes we have and how they’re implemented and [if] they have the effect that we want them to have,” Riley said. “But I think in a perfect world, if we can find the balance between still making it a big emphasis, protecting players, but also not being reckless about tossing players out of this game or part of the next game because of a foul, if we can find common ground I think we will be in a good place.”

• This, that: 2020 Big 12 media days have been set for next July 20-21. Tickets for the 2019 Big 12 title game are on sale. … OU’s Jalen Hurts and CeeDee Lamb have been named to the Maxwell Award preseason watch list for the nation’s best player. … Linebacker Kenneth Murray has been named to the Bednarik Award watch list for the nation’s best defender.