As quarterback Matthew Owens, of Boston’s Cathedral High School, strode towards the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the state championship game this past weekend, he briefly raised his arm in the air to celebrate the moment.
The only problem: That celebration ended up costing his team the state championship.
A referee threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct against Owens as he crossed the goal line, negating the touchdown. Cathedral went on to lose the game to Blue Hills Regional Technical School, 16-14.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association follows the NCAA’s rulebook when it comes to unsportsmanlike conduct, which prohibits players from using “abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures” or engaging “in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game.”
More specifically, the rules ban players from “delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act[s] by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves).” Players with a clear path to the end zone also aren’t allowed to alter their stride, according to the rules.
Now, watch the video, courtesy of ABC News, and ask yourself, did Owens’ celebration constitute a violation of any of those rules?
No matter how you feel about the call, there’s nothing that can be done now, according to a statement released by the MIAA Wednesday. “Once the final whistle is sounded the game is over,” the statement read.
The MIAA adopted the NCAA’s rules on unsportsmanlike conduct in 2010, becoming the first state to do so. The new rules went into effect this year, and the organization said it “took comprehensive measures to ensure that everyone understood this rule” at the beginning of the season.
While the Cathedral players may have lost the state championship due to a controversial penalty, they did gain a new ally in Boston mayor Thomas Menino, who stopped by the school this week to invite the team to a “victory lunch,” according to the .
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.