MORGANTOWN - "Football is an aggressive, rugged contact sport. Only the highest standards of sportsmanship and conduct are expected of players, coaches and others associated with the game. There is no place for unfair tactics, unsportsmanlike conduct or maneuvers deliberately designed to inflict injury."
I lifted that paragraph from the college football rulebook, the one that has 197 pages and covers everything from the color of the gloves players wear to pinpointing when the clock stops when a player's helmet comes off.
But it doesn't do anything to adjudicate faking injuries.
While there is no rule to address what is an expanding embarrassment to the college game, there is what the manual calls a "strongly worded statement" that discourages it. It speaks to coaching ethics and says instructing a player to pretend he's hurt as a way slow down the other team's offense is "indefensible" and "will break down rather than aid in the building of the character of players."
Feigning, as the manual calls it, is unethical, dishonest, unsportsmanlike and contrary to the spirit of the rules. Tough talk, but words are meaningless. Check the headlines and the story lines from the past year in college football. Coaching ethics are, shall we say, flexibile. Ethics, honesty, sportsmanship and the spirit of the rules are largely disregarded.
The truth is there's nothing to prevent the ridiculous tactic. A robust round of boos, a slow trip to the sideline and a one-play break are hardly deterrents.
Really, why wouldn't you do it? Why wouldn't LSU take a seat to slow down West Virginia's offense? Why shouldn't Bowling Green feign cramps in that seemingly deceiving 40-degree heat? Why can't Connecticut (2-3) do the same when it plays the 16th-ranked Mountaineers (4-1) at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field?
Call it unethical, but call it tactical, too.
"It's a cheap way to do things," WVU quarterback Geno Smith said, "but it happens because there's no rule against it."
That's a problem, but it's not the problem. The real issue is that college football knows it has a mess on its hands, but will only wash its hands of the behavior. The Big East Network showed a replay Saturday when a Bowling Green defender was standing in his position before WVU hurried to snap the ball. That defender looked to the sideline and then crumbled to the turf.
The officials paused the game and let the defender head to the sideline.
"It's comical how naive the officials are and how they can have cameras all over the place and can't fix something as silly as that," said Mountaineers men's soccer Coach Marlon LeBlanc.
Feigning is such a problem in soccer that the legislators had to address it. In the English Premier League, likely the top level of professional soccer, the dramatics are penalized.
The acts aren't the same, but the effects are. A soccer player acting like he is fouled when he clearly is not compromises play. It gives the game a negative element that observers attach themselves to. It hurts popularity.