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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