LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska coach Bill Callahan was reprimanded by the Big 12 Conference on Thursday for making an apparent throat-slashing gesture after arguing with the referee during a game against Oklahoma.

Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said Callahan acted “out of character” and his behavior “constituted unsportsmanlike conduct.”

“He has been very good to work with, and his sideline demeanor had been exemplary. I have great respect for him and understand that he was acting on emotion,” Weiberg said. “However, the Big 12 and its member institutions place tremendous emphasis on the conference’s sportsmanship policy.”

Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson said the school accepted the reprimand.

“We appreciate the fact that they have accepted coach Callahan’s explanation of this gesture,” Pederson said. “We also recognize that any kind of gesture is not in character either with coach Callahan or our program.”

Callahan was not immediately available for comment.

The disciplinary action came five days after the coach argued with referee Steve Usechek following Kejuan Jones’ touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Cornhuskers’ 31-24 loss. Callahan insisted holding should have been called.

Video showed Callahan raising his right arm to his throat, index finger extended, and making a slashing motion after Usecheck walked away.

Callahan has denied wrongdoing, saying he gestured out of frustration and intended no malice. He has noted he was not penalized on the play. In college football, a throat-slashing gesture is a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

Callahan apologized in July for his conduct at last year’s game at Oklahoma for using an expletive and calling Sooner fans “hillbillies.”

As coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2003, he caused a stir among his players when, after the team’s ninth loss in 12 games, he said: “We’ve got to be the dumbest team in America.” Callahan was fired a month later.

The Huskers (5-3) have lost three of their last four games. Callahan is 10-9 in two seasons at Nebraska, 8-9 against Division I-A opponents.

AP-ES-11-03-05 1600EST

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