It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about alligators or football, official rules can be mighty complicated.
Let’s look at alligators first. In Georgia, the law says that if you want to operate an alligator farm, you must obtain your brood stock from a legal source, such as another alligator farm, and not from the wildlife population.
Well, this gentleman in South Georgia had corralled several wild gators to feed and eventually sell, and he wanted to use the natives as his brood stock for raising more gators. You can’t do that, the state said.
So the man eventually bought eight legal Florida gators as brood stock, which he kept separate from the illegal Georgia gators. The Florida gators began to lay eggs, and all was well. But then the Florida gators escaped and started mixing with the Georgia gators. And when the man wanted to sell, the state said, no, we don’t know which ones are legal Florida gators and which ones are illegal Georgia gators.
The gator farmer sued the Department of Natural Resources, claiming its actions “constituted a taking of his alligators.” In 2002, the case went before Judge J.D. Smith, formerly of the Georgia Court of Appeals. Smith agreed the state was right. But he went a step further. Smith — who did his undergraduate work at the University of Florida and got his law degree from the University of Georgia — added this footnote:
“Several times in this opinion, we refer to ‘Georgia alligators.’ We do so reluctantly and solely for the sake of convenience and brevity. We recognize that for literally millions of Georgians and Floridians, the term ‘Georgia Gators,’ or any approximation thereof, is an inherently offensive oxymoron. We apologize for any pain or distress caused by this unfamiliar and unfortunate juxtaposition.”
Now let’s look at a confusing football rule. Courtney Mauzy, a retired college football official of Little Switzerland, N.C., shares this story:
When the National Collegiate Athletic Association rewrote the player-substitution rule a number of years ago, it omitted any reference to substitution with intent to deceive. Soon after that, Miami was playing Duke and had the ball on fourth down with a yard to go. Miami sent in its punt team, and Duke responded by sending in its punt-receiving team. Miami let the clock run down to a few seconds and then sent in its offensive team. Duke’s coaches responded by hurriedly sending their defense back in.
When Miami snapped the ball, however, Duke had about 20 players on the field and was penalized, giving Miami a first down. Duke’s coach was furious. Mauzy explained to him that the rule book said nothing about substituting to deceive, and Miami had done nothing illegal.
“Well, Courtney,” the coach said, “it might not be illegal, but it’s sure as hell immoral.”
As they do every year, the Georgia Dawgs will take on the Florida Gators on Oct. 27 in Jacksonville. It’s not illegal or immoral. And let no one be deceived: There’s no better substitution in all of college football.
— Hudgins, a former community newspaper editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.