As the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes and in his other stops as head coach, Florida International head coach Butch Davis garnered the reputation of doing whatever it took to win.
After Saturday night’s monumental upset of his former team at the site of the Orange Bowl, that apparently now includes flopping and faking injuries to gain a competitive advantage.
On potentially five or more occasions during Saturday night’s game, a Panther player fell to the ground untouched with an apparent injury while Miami was on offense. This caused game officials to stop the game for a short break so the FIU athletic training staff could attend to that player.
But what it really did was broke the Miami offense’s rhythm and slowed the game down. After the Hurricanes caught on to what the Panthers were doing, multiple players, including quarterback Jarren Williams, would demonstratively react to officials after seeing the FIU player just fall.
The CBS Sports broadcast team also quickly caught on to what the Panthers were doing and accused FIU of intentionally flopping and faking injuries.
Davis denied the allegation in his post-game news conference and fired back at the Hurricanes and anyone else who believed his team was flopping intentionally to gain a competitive advantage.
“I’d like for them to look at our medical reports,” Davis was quoted by the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel as saying. “I guarantee you: I’ve never coached a football team that has had as many hamstring and groin injuries this entire season, and this is the truth, okay?
“It’s a shame when somebody boos when people get injured. We didn’t boo when their kid broke his elbow.”
Davis saying “their kid” was in reference to DeeJay Dallas exiting the game in the third quarter with a gruesome elbow injury.
Game officials had no recourse for the rash of FIU injuries as the NCAA rule book does not specifically have a rule against flopping or faking injuries to break a team’s offensive rhythm.
The rule book does state that faking an injury is unsportsmanlike and should be avoided, but there is no consequence or penalty outlined for those who fail to do so.
This may be because it can be difficult to prove when a player is faking an injury or flopping. Most players who do so are not as obvious about it as the Panthers were on Saturday night.
In an interview with al.com in January, the NCAA national coordinator of officiating Rogers Redding admitted that players faking injuries was “a concern”.
“There’s nothing the officiating community can do about it, and there may be nothing the rules committee can do about it,” Redding told al.com. “But it’s a matter of integrity in the game. One reason there’s a statement in the rule book about feigning an injury is to make people aware of the need for integrity among sportsmen.”
Despite the questions surrounding it, I believe a rule needs to be put in for the 2020 season to prevent teams from doing what FIU did on Saturday night.
NCAA basketball debuted a rule during the 2019-2020 in which flopping is penalized. A player receives a warning for the first flop (determined by an official’s judgement) and if that player or any of his teammates flop again, the second player is assessed a Class B technical foul and one free throw is given to his opponent.
While college football obviously does not have technical fouls or free throws, it does have unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. I propose that college football adopt the same process college basketball now has: Give one player/team warning for faking injuries and/or flopping and assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to any player caught faking an injury or flopping after the warning.
Another suitable option would be requiring the team caught faking or flopping to take a timeout rather than assess a penalty. If that team is out of timeouts, then assess the head coach a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The replay official would be mostly responsible for enforcing this rule and ensuring that teams cannot gain a competitive advantage by faking injuries as it can be difficult to determine on the field in live action how a player got to the ground.
Let’s make one thing very clear here: Miami did not lose because Florida International faked injuries. Miami lost because it had terrible offensive and defensive game plans was ill-prepared to play (yet again) coming off a bye week.
However, Redding is 100 percent right in saying that faking injuries ruins the integrity of the game. It is a manipulation of the rules to provide a competitive advantage that should not be allowed.
I hope the NCAA will consider my rule or one like it to avoid more teams playing like FIU did on Saturday night.