BEVO BEAT Football

Big 12: Game officials to use judgment before throwing a ‘Horns Down’ flag

League doesn't offer specifics on whether OU players can throw the 'Horns Down' without repercussion

Posted November 28th, 2018


Is “Horns Down” worth a 15-yard flag? The Big 12 says it’s a judgment call for officials on Saturday in the Big 12 championship game.

The league office tweeted a small statement on the issue on Wednesday and said it will be left to officials to determine whether any offending Oklahoma player will get flagged for throwing the Horns down against Texas.

Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown (5) flashes the horns down before an NCAA college football game against Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

“If in the judgment of the on-field officials, any action by game participants deemed an ‘Unsportsmanlike Act’ is subject to penalty in accordance with college football rules,” the Big 12 office tweeted on its official account.


The league also inserted a link to the NCAA rule book that goes straight to section 9.2, which covers unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

Some things that would generate a flag would be “pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat.”

Other examples include “taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally” along with “any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself.”

OU coach Lincoln Riley was the first to bring this up during his Monday press conference. He said the Sooners would ask the league office for a clarification on whether the Horns Down would be called an unsportsmanlike penalty.

West Virginia had two 15-yard flags thrown against the Mountaineers for doing the Horns Down when they played the Longhorns in Austin in mid-November.

Texas officials have long believed the Horns Down should be a penalty, because by definition, it’s taunting. Former OU coach Barry Switzer, who once wore a “Beat Texas” hat in a game against the Horns, had the most passionate defense of the upside-down “Hook ’em” hand gesture.

“That’s bullshit,” Switzer told The Athletic this week. “‘Horns down’ is part of the history of the game. It’s a natural reaction. It’s like someone gives you the finger. You give them the finger back, right? Well, if someone does a ‘Horns up’ you do a ‘Horns down’ back at them.”

Big 12 officials have yet to penalize or reprimand any Texas player for throwing the Horns up.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email

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