Iowa fans who booed injured Penn State players aren’t the problem
The fallout from the top-5 showdown between Iowa and Penn State has spilled over into this week, and we aren’t debating whether or not the Nittany Lions would’ve won with a healthy Sean Clifford.
Instead, the hot topic is whether Iowa fans were acting inappropriately for booing during stoppages of play when Penn State players were injured.
Penn State head coach James Franklin took issue with it, saying afterward, “I don’t think that’s the right thing for college football, booing guys when they get hurt, however it looks.”
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz responded on Tuesday, saying, “Our fans aren’t stupid. They’re watching, they know what’s going on. I’ve been here 23 years, and I think that’s only the second time we’ve seen that kind of stuff going on.” He added that, “… Our fans thought they smelled a rat, I guess, I don’t know, so they responded the way they responded.”
Here’s a hot take for you: Iowa fans aren’t wrong for booing the injured Penn State players, and James Franklin isn’t wrong for standing up for his players. I completely understand where both Ferentz and Franklin are coming from.
Let me explain.
There’s this perverse incentive structure in college football where the benefit to faking an injury (stopping the offense’s momentum and allowing the defense catch its breath) far outweighs the loss (the player has to come off the field for 1 play). This isn’t a new issue, it’s been happening for years.
That’s why you get things like this.
Thoughts and prayers. pic.twitter.com/uXIkX2sJMV
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) October 9, 2021
College football fans are conditioned to believe every injury that comes after a big play from the offense is like the one in the Ole Miss/Arkansas game last weekend.
So when Penn State repeatedly has guys banged up on big plays, of course Iowa fans are going to suspect the worst of intentions. There were 5 Penn State players who had the trainer come out to look at them, and they all were shortly after big gains from Iowa. At one point, Iowa special teams coach LeVar Moods mocked the injury of Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, who went down without contact after an 18-yard run from Tyler Goodson.
“You’re hearing the boos,” Joel Klatt said on the FOX broadcast. “You know why you’re hearing the boos? Every time Iowa gains more than 10 yards or 12 yards, there’s somebody who goes down on the Penn State defense. There’s been an injury after every big play that Iowa has had. The fans here recognize that, and they are upset by it.”
That said, I believe Franklin when he says this wasn’t some grand plan to slow down Iowa’s offense, which is not at all an up-tempo unit. Besides, how would you feel if you legitimately got hurt and had 70,000 fans booing you? I think anything that impacts the outcome is fair game for the fans, but we should all be supporting any injured player, because a player’s health is bigger than any game.
That’s what is at odds here. Iowa fans don’t believe Penn State players were actually hurt. So what’s the solution?
College football must institute a new rule that states that if the game is stopped because a player needs medical attention, the player has to sit out the rest of that series, or maybe even a full quarter. I can guarantee you that would severely cut down the amount of fake injuries we see. Also, doesn’t that sound so much safer for the players? If you can’t get off the field on your own and need a trainer to help you, maybe you shouldn’t be back in the game 2 plays later.
Football has become a safer sport, but this is an opportunity to make it even more safe and also get rid of the incentive to cheat. Because that’s what faking an injury is, it’s cheating. Plain and simple.