Time to have a serious conversation about officiating

 

After the excessive celebration calls in the Georgia-LSU game on Oct. 3, I had a long talk with Rogers Redding, the SEC supervisor of officials. At that time Redding told me that his guys should not have called the penalty on Georgia’s A.J. Green. Later in the day the SEC had to admit publicly that their officials had made a mistake.

 

Towards the end of our conversation, Redding said this: “We tell our guys not to go looking for this stuff, but if it happens right in front of your face, you have to call it.”

 

I’m not sure that message has really gotten across because we still have officials seeing stuff that simply is not there. For the second time this month the SEC had to admit that an official threw a flag for a penalty that clearly did not happen.

 

The play took place in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game between Florida and Arkansas in Gainesville. Arkansas defensive lineman Malcolm Sheppard collided with Florida offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert in the middle of the field. Gilbert initiated the contact but Sheppard won the collision and  Gilbert fell to the ground. It was just two guys running into each other in the middle of the field. It was a football play.

 

Out comes a flag for a personal foul against Sheppard. The penalty gave Florida a first down at the Arkansas 10-yard line. Florida went on to tie the game at 20-20 and won it on a field goal in the final seconds.

 

Arkansas asked the league office to look at the tape, which it did. The SEC told Arkansas “there was no evidence on the video to support the personal foul penalty.”

 

A couple of points here:

 

I will give the SEC for credit for again admitting the mistake but guys, come on!

 

This is the same officiating crew that worked the Georgia-LSU game and called three excessive celebration penalties, two of which were bogus, in my opinion. This is now two major mistakes that had a direct bearing on the outcome of a high-profile game. In both cases officials saw things that simply were not there. The league office has to sit this crew down for the rest of the season.

 

Secondly, there needs to be a philosophical discussion about officiating in general. My belief is that there are too many penalties called in college football, period. I think it slows down the game and interrupts the natural flow of play.

 

I think officials should call the obvious stuff and the stuff that puts other players at risk or gives a team a clear competitive advantage. But football is just like basketball. Either the officials call it tight or they let the guys play. I believe in letting the guys play until they give you a reason to crack down.

 

Yes, I know there was a pass interference play in that same drive that also went against Arkansas. And there were other calls that Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino didn’t like. Those are judgment calls. People are always going to argue over calls like that. Officials are always going to miss calls like that. It’s part of the game.

 

And please, spare me the conspiracy theories: “It’s Florida and the league wants to protect the Gators because they are the defending national champs and they want them to play Alabama”…blah, blah, blah… Take that silliness somewhere else. That kind of talk obscures the real issue here.

 

I’m talking about a mindset. It’s the same mindset that looked at A.J. Green’s incredible catch and celebration with his teammates and thought SOMETHING had to be called. It’s the mindset looked at LSU’s Charles Scott, looking briefly to the stands after a touchdown run, and thought SOMETHING had to be called.

 

As someone who watched college football for a long time, there seems to be an attitude that officials are more concerned about NOT calling stuff. It seems to me that when in doubt, you DON’T throw the flag. To me, it’s much worse to call something that is NOT there than fail to call something that MIGHT be there. Maybe that’s just me. I’ve never been an official and I know it is a very tough job.

 

Am I wrong? If you were the SEC supervisor of officials and the commissioner, what would you do?

 

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621 comments Add your comment

tony's a homer

October 20th, 2009
6:52 am

Tony, are you still crying about the officials. Give it a rest. Your team stinks this year.

GregNortonIsHot

October 20th, 2009
6:53 am

AMEN sir!!! Fantastic article!!!

rockc82

October 20th, 2009
6:54 am

Great article and well said, Tony. What is your opinion on why Tim Tebow is never called for such excessive celebrations for all of his on-field antics after a 2-yard first down multiple times in every game he’s played. I’m not saying its a conspiracy theory that officials want Florida to win, but it sure seems like Georgia is always on receiving end of horrible calls like this, while Florida always benefits from bad officiating. Please address the real question: Why does A.J. Green receive a flag for glancing at the crowd for a split second and Tebow does not receive one for getting up, looking at the crowd, waving his hands, punching his chest, and clearly drawing attention to himself?

GregNortonIsHot

October 20th, 2009
6:54 am

and homer you are a moron…just b/c the team stinks doesn’t mean the officiating shouldn’t be professional.

Thenumber34

October 20th, 2009
6:55 am

I disagree with you, Tony. There is a lot of money for the SEC riding on its placing one and perhaps two teams in the national championship game. Why is a conspiracy so far fetched?

Florida’s Tim Tebow gets pass after pass on excessive celebration calls and as witnessed on Saturday, the Florida team received game winning calls from the officials. Seems they don’t fear for their jobs as they should….wonder why?

Carlton Powell

October 20th, 2009
6:56 am

As I have said previously, one of the implied, but yet real resons, the SEC went to a replay concept is that the league officials KNOW how bad the officiating has been for years. This is really nothing new. It’s just now there’s no hiding the fact. No, I don’t believe there’s an explicit conspiracy theory involved with the ‘Gators, but I DO think all concerned at the league office level realize what a huge deal it would/will be if the #’s 1 & 2 square off for the championship game. Agree that at least the league is big enough to admit the mistakes. However, I don’t think they had much choice.

WTH

October 20th, 2009
6:57 am

According the UGA fans on their blog, the SEC refs are biased towards them because the head of SEC officials is a GT graduste and the head of this particular crew is a GT graduate. I wonder since these calls hurt Arkansas, are there some high ranking SEC referees from Arkansas State or whomever Arkansas’s rival is?

David

October 20th, 2009
6:58 am

How about Kentucky going the whole game Saturday with no penalties while Auburn got called for a crapload of them?

WTH

October 20th, 2009
6:59 am

I guess the assistant head of officials is a Kentucky graduate.

RomeDawg

October 20th, 2009
7:01 am

Tony,

Before you say “take that sillines elsewhere”, I suggest you take a look at the economic impact that making sure two undefeated teams meet for the SEC championship game means. If Florida gets beat by Arkansas and then beats Alabama in the SEC title game could it be Boise State and Texas or Cincinnati in the BCS instead of an SEC. That would cost the SEC millions of dollars. If they are only supposed to call penalties that happen directly in front of them how did they miss the Vandy player sacking Joe Cox and then slinging his towel 25 feet in the air? It seems that SEC officiating is a lot like the WWF’s. I keep waiting for an opposing coach to call a ref over to distract him while one of his players hits one from the opposition. It is a joke and it IS ruining the fun and emotion of college football.

Ben Dover

October 20th, 2009
7:01 am

I watched a replay last night and I am sick to my stomach for Arky

Red Foreman

October 20th, 2009
7:08 am

whaaaaaaaaaaaaa

whaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Bill

October 20th, 2009
7:10 am

You’re absolutely right! I watched the game (Florida-Arkansas) and saw that the officials were the same as called the LSU-Georgia game and hosed Georgia. I commented to several people at the time that Arkansas was hosed by the officials almost in the same manner and circumstance as the LSU-Georgia game. This crew should not be officiating. And, add Penn Wagers to that group.

Not Disappointed!

October 20th, 2009
7:12 am

Yeah, it’s a bad call. Saw it on replay yesterday after dinner, but we need to go forward. Good article. Where do we go from here?

Ramblin Wreck!

ExecutiveStinger

October 20th, 2009
7:13 am

I see exactly what you’re saying Tony, and I agree with all of it.

My only comments would be that, in the officials defense (which I hate to defend them), I guess they can call whatever they want when something other than what the rules state happens in a game. On the A.J. Green call, for instance, the rules state that upon scoring a TD, the ball should be immediately handed to the official and then the players should begin walking off the field. Any deviance from that risks a penalty. We don’t know what words were coming from Green’s mouth at that moment or what the official saw. I know it sounds way too overbearing for them to have the right to call a penalty there, but for the record, any deviance from what is explicitly stated in the rules can risk a penalty. A.J. Green and every other player should know that and act accordingly. You can excessively celebrate all you want when you’re on your sideline, but not on the field of play where the officials are in charge of moving the game along.

Now, the play with Arkansas and Florida was just crazy, and if for no other reason, that crew should be heavily reprimanded if not benched for that game alone. To me, it really comes down to a tough, fine line with these errant calls. I agree something should be done, but even if reprimands or “mindsets” change, nothing says some of these calls won’t happen again. A percentage of calls will always be judgment calls, and as long as officials are allowed/forced to use their own judgment, I suppose these calls can and will happen.

Topp Dogg

October 20th, 2009
7:14 am

The biggest will be when an undeserving Tim Tebow wins another Heisman Trophy,talk about picking favorites to win OMG.

JB

October 20th, 2009
7:16 am

SEC officiating has become a joke.

HBTD!!!

Fleabag

October 20th, 2009
7:16 am

Don’t penalize the whole crew. Take the guy that threw it AND the head official and deal with them. The head official could have talked with the ref that threw the flag and made a case that he should pick it up.

DamnDawg

October 20th, 2009
7:17 am

The officials are told before the game to keep certain teams in the game if it gets close, no doubt, why else would they make up phony calls that were not there? That crew needs to be benched. They have screwed up two games already. Try doing that on your job and see what happens

So what

October 20th, 2009
7:23 am

If ya’ll did an article like this every time an ACC official messed up a call, you would have several a week.
Quit whining about it. Yeah, there probably is politics involved. The SEC wants to have 2 BCS teams. They’ll do what they can to help that.
You just need to move on.

We need to move to a system without conference refs, but until then, we just have to live with it.

and no, I will not follow you on twitter

-J Swofford (a little girl)

chazzo

October 20th, 2009
7:23 am

Penalizing a team FIFTEEN yards because someone on that team jumps up and down is just plain ludicrous. Administrators and coaches need to learn that just because they have a big meeting does not mean they need to come up with rule changes every year.

topdawg70

October 20th, 2009
7:26 am

I learned a long time ago to look hard at any coincidence when people are involved and see who might benefit. I don’t know about conspiracy theories, I admit to being a DAWG fan and pulling for the Hogs, BUT, it seemed strange to me that 3 calls in a row, at the end of the game, with that game on the line, ALL WENT AGAINST ARK. I also think Bobby Petrino is a jerk and if he gets pounded in the SEC it would be great. I just hope that crew is not in Jacksonville.

Barry Osborne

October 20th, 2009
7:27 am

Surely after all this time, you know there is no such word as towards. Toward. Same with forward. There is no forwards. Thank you for your time and attention.

Simple Rule Change

October 20th, 2009
7:28 am

Enter your comments here

Dabo

October 20th, 2009
7:28 am

If you are going to call excessive celebration, call it on St. Tebow too! The guy goes out of his mind when he gets a big 1st down. Never mind a touchdown and what he does, which is totally outrageous. Tony, if you read this, please tell us why you think he never gets called for excessive celebration.

JB

October 20th, 2009
7:29 am

JB here, the original………………………………………………………………….It’s just like when Jordan played in the NBA, in a tight game, he never got a whistle for anything, Walking, three second rule( what a joke that is) palming the ball and blocking a shot and hitting the guy with his body, NEVER called. Tebow, same thing. If you APPLIED the rule as A J Green was called. Tebow would have 25 or 30 celebration flags on him thus far. He IS one big Celebration after all his TWO YARD scores. I’m surprised Al Sharpton hasn’t spoken up about this. Aj was drawing attention to himself. What the hell is Tebow doing?

Bill Will

October 20th, 2009
7:30 am

Good article from associated press concerning the sorry SEC refs that did the Ga/LSU game and then the Florida/Arkansas game Saturday. Another gaffle, who’s suprised.

The head of the SEC officials happens to be Rogers Redding, he was handpicked by the previous SEC head official, Bobby Gaston, another Ga. Tech graduate.

Redding, a 1965 Georgia Tech graduate, was vice chancellor of academic affairs and a professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.a Ga. Tech graduate, (Yep, a physics professor) Are you beginning to see a trend here.

Evidently they love Florida and anybody but the Georgia Bulldogs. SEC football and basketball is not fun to watch because of the OFFICIALS. Same problems in high school football. Normally the home team gets the calls making it almost impossible for visiting teams to win. That’s in SEC football, SEC basketball, and GHSA high school football. But certain teams get favored treatment home and away.And certain teams get bad calls all the time. Bad refs should get called out and put on u-tube. Remember Al Ford, Penn Wages, Michael Watson (LSU fame) all big time cheaters.

Denver Dog

October 20th, 2009
7:32 am

What fomerly was the best officiating in the country is now way down the list. The reason is that there is no consistentcy to the calls. The call against Arkansas was rediculous as was the pass interference. Urban Meyer on the field while the team is at the line, is another one that these guys seem to consider OK. Being the son of a former SEC ref, he would surely roll over in his grave if he saw these calls. In the case of the Arkansas call, I would like to know why it was called. What was the mindset of that ref, and it must have been the head official in the crew that made the call.

Silliness, there is a multi-million dollar outcom if all things play out right. It is not the number 1 and 2 in the SEC game for ratings, it is the guarantee that one of those two will be in the MNC BCS championship. I think that the SEC is the strongest conference by a long shot, but maybe it would do the NCAA some good to have Boise in the mix, playing against TCU. Then maybe all this voters putting weak scheduled teams in the top 10 will change. Right now the BCS is a joke, teams that play good teams, LSU , who loses to UF, are rated behind teams that squeak by Tulsa. Give me a break.

Gatorzip74

October 20th, 2009
7:32 am

I’m a Gator fan and I agree that the personal foul was a horrible call and the P/I call in the endzone was a judgement call, it s borderline at best, but what do you expect. This is the SEC, the home teams always have the advantage. Visiting teams should know this going in. If those calls wentagainst UF in Tiger Stadium, it would not have surprised me one bit.
UGA fans need to get over yourselves with your call, the refs even made up for it. Try stopping a 50 yrd TD run and then maybe you’ll win the game. By the way, I hear the Waffle House in Shreveport is a great place to eat.

Bart

October 20th, 2009
7:32 am

Good topic and focus on the NCAA specifically, where one bone-head call at any point in the season could completely alter a team’s year, bowl opportunity and even a coach’s job security. This issue, along with a stubborn refusal to organize a true playoff system, has made college football go the way of the AL and NBA in my world: non-existent. At least in the NFL one call might affect the outcome of a single game but the bleeding stops there. The only team sports worthy of investing any time and money are doubtless the NFL, NL baseball and college basketball.

Fairness

October 20th, 2009
7:35 am

Bill – LSU got the same call right after GA did. Kicked off from the 15 just like GA did. However, GA didn’t do anything with the opportunity. LSU did.

GoVols

October 20th, 2009
7:38 am

I, like many of you, watch a lot of football on Saturdays. The only conference that seems to have officiating problems week in and week out is the SEC. There always seems to be several instances when the entire group of referees huddle together and then surprise us with the call. Are they trained differently than other conference referees???

m

October 20th, 2009
7:40 am

The sec sucks…and the sec officials suck. And Tony crying about officials because his tems sucks….SUCKS.

Low down on officials….sec officials are bad….acc officials are worse. The difference is acc officials are universally bad to the point of incompetency. They don’t necessarily favor any one team…they are just bad for everybody.

The sec officials are just about as bad…but they favor certain teams over others and they definitely favor sec over non-conference teams. If they make a bad call against a non-conference team it is no big deal. If they make a bad call against an sec team they are suspended and threatened and cried about by Tony and all the other redneck sec fans.

If a call goes against an acc team it is no big whoop. If it goes against an sec team you hear about it for 20 years.

Bottom line is the sec is the crybaby, full of excuses league. And the sec is the weakest I have ever seen it in my llfetime…and that is why Tony and all the other sec crybabies are complaining about officials.

Besides, the acc is going to beat the sec 4 out of 7 this year just like they beat the sec 6 out of 10 last year. TECH will be the the unofficial champion by going 3-0 against the sec…but winning against the pitiful sec this year is NOTHING to brag about.

Simple Rule Change

October 20th, 2009
7:40 am

What about one simple rule change –

Make the 1st “excessive celebration” call against a team a warning to the head coach and not a yardage penalty. After a warning a team will know the next call could cost them the game.

greg

October 20th, 2009
7:44 am

Never seen it so bad. Clemson lost to GT because of a late holding call on Clemson that was not holding. The AJ Green call was horrible. There is no rime or reason behind many of these calls. All random and inconsistent.

Chopdawg

October 20th, 2009
7:44 am

Penalties that have no effect on actual plays on the field–such as “excessive celebration”–just don’t need to be called, period. “Excessive celebration” is not a penalty like “holding” might be, because if you “hold” you give your team an immediate unfair advantage during an actual football play. “Excessive celebrations” happen after plays are over and mean nothing to the actual outcome of the game.

I don’t see what’s so wrong with the NFL rule about this type of activity. “Excessive celebration” is rarely called (although it IS a penalty if you kick the ball away, after a play, like one player did last night). If we feel there must be some restraint on celebrations, let it be like the bench warnings teams get for coaches out of the box: the team first is warned, then the next time the same infraction occurs, the penalty’s assessed.

Bill Will

October 20th, 2009
7:45 am

Tim Teebow, is he not man enough to stand up and say that the SEC OFFICIALS show favortism to him and his team all the time. How does he get away with the personal celebrations all the time. How does he get great spots all the time. If he is so great (and that he is a great quarterback, can’t be denied) but, does he not feel any SHAME ?

Vol85

October 20th, 2009
7:50 am

Even as someone who had an obvious cheering interest in the UT vs. UGA game two weeks ago, I couldn’t help but wonder why it was the Vols didn’t receive a personal foul flag for excessive celebration when it appeared that many of the players were jumping up and down on the sideline (and a little bit out onto the field of play) celebrating at some point in the second half. I was thinking that UGA must have been wondering the same thing. Of course, in the case of Georgia, they had done the same thing two years ago vs. Florida. Heck, it was even orchestrated. Who knows. It’s all so bleeping subjective.

As for the “conspiracy theories” re: UF, Tony, I’m sure you’re right, but sometimes perception is held in higher value than reality. Case in point: How many times is trailer park trash, can’t get open unless he cheats Riley “Jorts” Cooper going to be able to pull an opposing DB’s jersey or push off without it resulting in a flag? Follow the train of thought: despite a roster loaded with heralded pass catchers, aside from the Gator TE no one else seems to be able to make themselves available as a target for Tebow except his room mate, Cooper. Take Cooper’s aforementioned antics out of play and Tebow is down to one true receiver (again, we’re not talking about Demps and Rainey out of the backfield or in some type of H-Back position here), his very impressive TE. This puts even MORE pressure on an already overworked and, thanks to his own head coach, abused QB to take matters into his own hands. Tebow is, without question, a credit to college athletics. But can he continue to do this with only one receiving option and acting like a Dan Kendra with better accuracy?

Burgess

October 20th, 2009
7:53 am

I’ve never been a conspiracy theory person. But watching the last minute of the UGA-LSU game and the Arkansas-Florida game, I can’t help but wonder about it. I don’t question that crew’s ability….I question their integrity. The personal foul call was obviously terrible…..but so were the pass interference call against Arkansas and the NO call on the offensive pass interference that should have been against Florida. How can you miss 3 calls that bad in crunch time ? The officials clearly handed the game to Florida.

Sautee Dawg

October 20th, 2009
7:56 am

Top Dawg

You hit the nail. Tebow will win another Heisman this season, D-Mac from Arkansas won the other one that was handed to Tebow. ESPN will see to it that he gets another one. His touchdown record he’ll own after this season is impressive but, with over half of them coming in wins over Charelston Southern, Troy, Citadel, and Western Kentucky,
Officiating has become a joke, usually holding which they say can be called on every play, is mostly called on a play that kills a drive for a team.
I predict that this years officiating crew will have at least 2 or 3 controversial calls in the Ga. vs Fla. game. 2 or 3 calls that will stop a drive for one team or the other.
Tebow will not get a penalty for skipping through the endzone and beating his chest, only thing worse than watching this is listening to Gary Danielson of CBS crow about how every play Tebow makes is the greatest ever. Last week against Ark Tebow was sacked and Danielson commented how this sack was a good one because it didn’t take Fla out of fieldgoal range. What a joke.

Fairness

October 20th, 2009
7:57 am

Clemson lost because they didn’t score enough points in the alloted 60 minutes. AND I can prove it.

JB

October 20th, 2009
7:57 am

FAirness – Bill – LSU got the same call right after GA did. Kicked off from the 15 just like GA did. However, GA didn’t do anything with the opportunity. LSU did.

And that justifies a bad a game changing call??? Sheeeesh! Change your moniker to moron, please.

HBTD!!!

George P. Burdell

October 20th, 2009
8:00 am

Tony,

I agree but it took you the UGA game on a questionable call that is equally questionable as to whether or not it cost UGA the game. Why no uproar on the Tech-UNC game where there is absolutely no debating that the officials screwed up on something anyone who has watched 2 games in the last 5 years would know. No judgement call there, they messed it up. Sure it didn’t cost Tech the game and they went on to win handily, but it was a pivotal point in the game and it didn’t have to work out that way.

I hate officials having such influence over the game but this has been going on for years. I also think fans tend to look at the calls made at the very end differently. The reality is a screwed up call in the first quarter is every bit as bad. A game is the combination of a bunch of plays and the ones at the end don’t count more than the others. Yes, it adds to the drama but they don’t count more. A team that gave up a TD in the first quarter on a bad call and then loses on the last play of the game is no different than a team that goes out and loses on a bad call to end the game.

lefty fielder

October 20th, 2009
8:01 am

The inconsistency of the unsportsmanlike call (not just in the SEC either) is what is so baffling. AJ and Sheppard glance into the crowd and get a flag. Nesbitt scores and points into the crowd and doesn’t get flagged. Tebow runs for a first down and growls at the guys making the tackle . . . no flag.

Dawg Tired

October 20th, 2009
8:01 am

Tony – Yep, I think you are wrong. Listen, this crew is either totaly incompetent or totally lacks integrity. Based upon the AJ call and the Arkansas personal foul call, I submit no body could be that incompetent. I clearly think the evidence, and I am a lawyer, points to a bias towards protecting the SEC’s highest ranked teams from being upset. There is just too much money on the line. Getting to the national champinship game has so many benefits, including the money.

That being said, even if you go with your view, surely it must be admitted that the SEC must do more than issue an apology to teams which have been robbed of a win each week. Name one other job, other than being a politician (suppose you think they’re honest too?), where you can get away with such a performance or nonperformance of your duties and still have a job the next week.

They shafted Georgia and they shafted Arkansas. Both “shaftings” enable a highly ranked team to win a game they probably would have lost without the call. Coincidences? In your words, COME ON!

Jeffro Bodeen

October 20th, 2009
8:02 am

Maybe we should look into who the bookie is for this referee crew! Dirty, dirty referees!!

southga

October 20th, 2009
8:03 am

Okay Mr. Barnhart, one would assume the logical question would be, “What is the SEC going to do about it?” Will they not suspend this crew? Fine this crew? And why would this crew be given another marquis, nationally-televised game after butchering the game in Athens?
Someone said it earlier in the string, but college football is about a year away from being equivalent to professional wrestling.

McDawg

October 20th, 2009
8:05 am

and they didn’t call numerous helmet to helmets in the LSU game one of which broke a kids jaw

did you see the uSC-ND game-someone is going to get killed-Taylor Mays is the biggest cheap shot since Ronnie Lott-that is the kinda of stuff the officials need to be calling

red hill

October 20th, 2009
8:08 am

I think it’s become what southern politics has always been. I do not believe they are bad. I believe they are crooked and that the fix is in. Maybe they got in too deep with the gamblers or something. This is what we are stuck with until something is done.

McDawg

October 20th, 2009
8:10 am

as far s crooked referring goes-go back to some orange bowls in the early 90s ND-Colorado (goal line stand that CU clearly scored on), ND Colorado (phantom clip against the rocket), FSU-Nebraska (fairly tale penalties against Nebraska final drive that GAVE bowden 1st Nat Championship)- and tell me the fix was not in