Time for conferences to get out of the officiating business

 

 

 

On most weeks, it is fun to be Rogers Redding. The professorial Redding received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Georgia Tech and then earned his Ph.d. in Physical Chemistry from Vanderbilt. At several institutions, Redding was the chemistry professor that everyone wanted because he could take the complex and make it understandable.

 

Redding, it turns out, didn’t know what complex really was until he became the SEC supervisor of football officials in 2006. And he never really knew there could be a three-week stretch like this, where he has been called everything but, as our friend Neal Boortz would say, a child of God.

 

“It’s been interesting, to say the very least,” said Redding.

 

The SEC, much to its chagrin, has been put front and center over an increasingly loud discussion over football officiating. In three of the last four Saturdays a big call in a nationally-televised SEC game has sparked controversy that resulted in suspension of officials, reprimands of coaches, and charges from fans of conspiracy theories that would make the members of the Grassy Knoll Society blush.

 

In the past two weeks SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has had to reprimand three coaches—Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino, Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen—for complaining publicly about officiating calls. The first couple of reprimands are public with no real teeth. Kiffin was sent notice on Monday that his two strikes are up. The third time could result in penalties and one of those potential penalties is suspension.

 

The latest two calls to spark debate came last Saturday:

**–With Florida up 23-13 in the fourth quarter at Mississippi State, Gator linebacker Dustin Doe returned an interception 23 yards for an apparent touchdown. TV replays indicated that the ball may have been stripped before Doe crossed the goal line. After reviewing the play, the call stood. Mullen went nuts after seeing his own video and said that the replay official should be punished.

 

On Monday Mullen received a reprimand from Slive.

 

The rules say that “conclusive video evidence” must be present to overturn the ruling on the field. After reviewing the call on Monday, Rogers said such evidence did not exist.

 

“The default position is that the call on the field stands unless there is conclusive, indisputable evidence that it is wrong,” Redding said. “It wasn’t there.”

 

Based on some still screen pictures that are out there, Mississippi State fans would disagree.

 

The other call came at the end of the Tennessee-Alabama game. Alabama’s Terrence Cody blocked a Tennessee field goal as time expired and in the wild celebration that followed the big guy took off his helmet. Gary Danielson, who covered the game for CBS, wondered if it should have been an unsportsmanlike violation because it happened while the ball was still live. Kiffin was convinced that it was and said publicly that the refs had missed it.

 

Well, the refs didn’t miss it. The way the rule is written, even if a penalty had been called (which it shouldn’t be in that situation), it would have been marked off on the next play and not the previous play. The ball belonged to Alabama after the blocked kick.

 

“That’s a case where the rule is pretty clear,” said Redding. “Even if there had been time left on the clock, the ball would have belonged to Alabama. And if a penalty had been called, it would still be Alabama’s ball after the penalty was enforced.”

 

Fans look at these calls and the ones in the Georgia-LSU game and the Florida-Arkansas game (where the crew was eventually suspended) that the SEC had to admit were wrong and wonder: What the heck is going on here?  So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three coaches and one officiating crew who have been punished.

 

“What we have to realize is that these things are so important to our fans and they care deeply,” Redding said. “We review everything that needs to be reviewed and when action needs to be taken, we take it. Our guys work extremely hard at this and take a lot of pride in it.”

 

Slive said he backs Redding and his officials.

 

“We have the best conference in college football because we have the best players, the best coaches and easily the best fans,” Slive said. “We take our responsibility seriously and we’re going to do what we have to do maintain the highest standards.”

 

I do have one suggestion as we move forward. One of the most popular conspiracy theories is that the officials are “looking out” for Florida and Alabama because they are 1-2 in the polls and seem destined to meet in the SEC championship game. I’m not going to spend any time writing about how silly that is, but we’re probably reaching the stage where it’s time to take that idea off the table.

 

It seems to me that it’s time for the conferences—all of them—to get out of the officiating business. Let’s have officials assigned on a national basis so that they are not identified with one conference, who is technically their employer. It certainly wouldn’t solve all the problems because officials are human beings and human beings are going to make mistakes. But it would take away one argument from those who see a massive conspiracy behind every missed call. That, in and of itself, would be a welcomed change.

 

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379 comments Add your comment

Unbiased fan

October 27th, 2009
10:53 am

Ghost of Bobby (GT) Gaston, instead of wasting time with inane comments, how about spending 30 seconds to google Mr. Redding’s prior officiating credentials. Do you really think the most prominent college football conference in America would just randomly hire someone? Genius!! And keep dreaming about the ACC being on top…

G8R GRAD

October 27th, 2009
10:53 am

“I’m not going to spend any time writing about how silly that is, but we’re probably reaching the stage where it’s time to take that idea off the table.”

Thank you, Tony.

gt

October 27th, 2009
10:54 am

Is it nice to know that freedom of speech when telling the truth is awful to the point of suspensiion? Our forefathers fought for this? I do not like Kiffin. But to reprimand him oin this is denyiing freedom of speech.Period.

help, I live in Ga

October 27th, 2009
10:54 am

So the official in the Alabama game didn’t bother throwing the flag because he assumed Bama would recover? Crap. What if a Tn player is running to recover the ball and score a touchdown and Cody throws his helmet at the guy. Still no penalty? The ball was live and behind the line of scrimmage, the official didn’t throw the flag because he didn’t want to. plain and simple. the infraction took place while it was still Tn ball.

4th Place Dawg

October 27th, 2009
10:55 am

Joe Cox can’t move the ball against the Gator D. Gator D – 7 Games = 4 Touchdowns Allowed. Georgia D – 1 Game = 4 Touchdowns Allowed.

Melissa Fincher

October 27th, 2009
10:57 am

I don’t think its silly that many of us believe that the top ranked teams in a conference get better calls. Everyone knows that college football is big business, and the idea that conferences wouldn’t want to preserve a possible 1-2 match up in their conference champ game is preposterous! Think of the media spotlight on the SEC, think of the attn, think of the MONEY!!! Let’s face it, media and money drive this game. I do agree with you however, that It’s time for the conferences to stay out of the ref business and leave it up to a national assignment. It’s just too likely to have a conflict of interest in the way it is set up now. Oh, and bully for the coaches for standing up for what they think is an injustice. Viva Kiffin!

Keep it Real!

October 27th, 2009
10:59 am

@Gman you better get with the program! Do not think the fix is not in, Arkansas should have beaten Florida but 2 late blowned calls change the momentum of the game!

I happen to like Florida because of Tebow but they need to win on their own merit not with the officials help!

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:00 am

gt – do you have freedom to tell your employer off? C’mon, that is taking the constitution way beyond what it was intended. Besides, I didn’t know I was in the company of people capable of speaking to the dead.

gt

October 27th, 2009
11:02 am

One more comment . When the UF player did he dance early, why was that not a celebration penalty? In 07 whe Mo Mass caught that long TD against the Gators, he stuck the ball out in front of him and, yes, got a celebration penalty.

On and on and on.National tv has shown the SEC officials for what they are -inept and / of biased.

gt

October 27th, 2009
11:04 am

Gman,

I guess I did overstate this a little. BUT, The SEC does not hire or pay the coaches.

StuDawg

October 27th, 2009
11:07 am

In the case of the bama-ut blocked kick, since the ball didnt get past the scrimmage line, it is still a live ball, right?? Therefore the play is still going on and it is unsportsmanlike and 15 yds. and a rekick, right?

Brew

October 27th, 2009
11:09 am

Yes, help I live in Ga, you make the point that has been ignored here. The ball was live when Cody threw his helmet off. On this there can be no dispute whatsoever. If a UT player was savvy enough to cover the ball, the foul would be enforced.
Now, that said, the officials should have thrown the flag to, at a minimum, explain why it’s OK to take your helmet off on the field during a live play. 90,00+ saw it live as well as millions on TV, so we’re all expecting an explanation of why it’s not a foul. If it doesn’t matter because UA recovered, then say so, so that’s there’s no need for conspiracy theories. Not everyone, coaches included, know the rule.

Todd

October 27th, 2009
11:09 am

Tony, take your “tool box” home with you on this article.

BOTTOM LINE, FLAT OUT COST GA AND ARKY VICTORIES, FLAT OUT.

KNOW ONE SHOULD SPREAD ANY BS ABOUT THE CALLS IN THOSE GAMES. GO BACK AND WATCH IT ON YOUTUBE.

LIKE DAN MULLEN SAID, THEY SHOULD PAY WHEN THEY BLOW IT AS BAD AS THEY DID.

SHOULD BE A 6-1 FL VS 5-2 GA., EVERYBODY WHO’S HONEST KNOWS IT.

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:09 am

Keep it Real! Yeah, two blown calls would have TOTALLY changed the game’s momentum. I’m not sure what blown calls were missed from your perspective, but there were probably as many missed for UF’s fans also. Bottom line…there is no conspiracy! To even think that is absurd. Never put yourself in a situation where refs, players, or coaches decide the game on one play. The Gators defense was totally controlling the game. I was there.

Hal

October 27th, 2009
11:10 am

Gman, the SEC doesn’t employ the coaches… by matriculation you may say they funnel money back towards the schools but w/o those schools the SEC has squat! You have coaches, asst coaches on down the line whose butts are on the line each week and when things are bad I actually appreciate a coach who’ll stand up for his team. Having said that, he was wrong, the penalty (based on prior calls in games) should have been called, but it would not have given UT another chance. But I do appreciate him speaking up for his team, wish my coach (UGA) would do the same sometimes, grow some balls.

Often times we don’t appreciate passion in the moment, remember the “I’m a man” from Gundy? We all wrote that he was a rathing lunatic, especially the media. Then this year, when UGA goes west I read and hear for a week what a great speech that was and how it bought him credibility. People are fickle, all people including media and fans. UGA people calling for Mark Richt’s job??? Stupid people everywhere.

bamafan

October 27th, 2009
11:12 am

I admit my ignorance that unsportsmanlike conduct is always dead ball foul. However, I continue to maintain that even if it could be a “live ball foul,” the ball was no longer live when BAMA covered it in the TN game. The game was over, and any infraction that lies against Cody must be enforced later (not possible – game over) or handled by the SEC outside of the playing field.

Neither Alabama nor Tennessee players seemed particularly interested in covering the ball as it spun on the turf to the left of the kicker. That gave me much cause for concern….and should give Tennessee fans and coaches the same cause. The ball could have been advanced by TN but was not.

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:14 am

Todd – a 5-2 GA?! What? Yep that is what is happening…UGAs only problem is the refs. Fix that and you are undefeated and playing for the National Championship. Instead the SEC would rather have UF and AL play in those games. Face it, UGA lost those games by other things than the guys wearing stripes. Sometimes the fouls go against your team, sometimes for your team. It’s all in what you want to see. I think it’s fine and better than it was when replay wasn’t a part of the game.

Hal

October 27th, 2009
11:16 am

Gman Todd is right. We’re 4-3 now and only one game was lost to a bad call by a ref… that would make us 5-2. Easy math…

Willie

October 27th, 2009
11:17 am

We have seen coaches get fired and have a winning season suchas happened in Auburn. Is there a former college football player here that will tell me that receiving a bad call does nothing to his or the team’s quality of play the next few downs. I guess Dooley, Redding, and Slive knows best. I mean look at their salaries. You know those with high salaries are always correct and do the right thing.

Willie

October 27th, 2009
11:18 am

Got to go make a tee time for Saturday because there is nothing else I want to do.

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:19 am

Hal – you are correct. The SEC doesn’t employ them. There are just bylaws and contracts that they must abide by. I think its best to keep it within the family and not put it on public display. As an SEC fan, I don’t think it bodes well that we are getting all the attention right now for bad officiating and people within this league actually believe it is why we have two teams at the top. Speaking out isn’t always a good thing and in my opinion it’s not. Lets see, the three coaches that have spoken out are 1-4, 1-3, 1-3 in SEC play. It’s not the refs and it’s not the SEC as a conference that is the problem with these teams.

Gen Neyland

October 27th, 2009
11:21 am

I tend to agree with GMan’s assessment that there is no conspiracy. Just poor officiating. Noone can convince me though that the Zebra’s as a collective unit watch each other’s backs…All we ask is that when they huddle they really try and get it right. And when they miss the obvious, own up to their mistakes. Remember, to err is human but to cover up is for airline pilots…

Otto

October 27th, 2009
11:21 am

Just read over on ESPN Slive’s hit list in the SEC blog and he does have some point. CFB is big money, the refs have been bad for a long time, and with the big money pressure is on from all angles to make the correct call. Old, slow officials will not get the job done at this level. The SEC is getting millions from TV contracts, it is time to spend some money training and hiring new refs. The SEC has to be as credible as possible to stay in the BCS title game. UF most likely still beats MSU and Bama beats UT but don’t give a Utah Congressman any more of a leg to stand on and beside bad calls with millions on the line is just absurd when a little money out of the pie could prevent much of the bad press.

Keep it Real!

October 27th, 2009
11:21 am

@G-man what you cannot see when you at the game is holding on every pass play by a Florida cornerback, their were several T.V. replays showing Florida CB’s holding onto an Arkansas player’s jersey several yards down the field.

Now on the pass interference play a minor bump plus the Arkansas player turned around! 2-15 yard penalties made it easy for Florida to score.

Look Vol fans, Kippin should not complain he had 45 seconds left on the clock and did try to move the ball downfield. When in college do you leave your kicker with a 40 yard plus field goal.

Monte Kippin should be the head coach not his weak son!

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:22 am

Hal and Todd – how did your team get to where ONE bad call by a ref in a game decided the outcome for your team? Isn’t that the problem? Denial is difficult to overcome.

G8R GRAD

October 27th, 2009
11:23 am

Todd & Hal:

You didn’t tackle the run back.
THAT’S why you’re 4-3!

69Dawg

October 27th, 2009
11:23 am

Just because we are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get us.

ReptilesRule

October 27th, 2009
11:24 am

Losers will always need something to bitch about. It is so much easier to blame the refs than to look at your own teams lack of execution and doing something about it. Winners look for improvement, losers look for excuses…

Brew

October 27th, 2009
11:25 am

You’re right bamafan. UT should have picked up the ball and advanced it…like they tried to on the previous block. They just lost sight of the ball, and unfortunately for them, didn’t have an official there to point out the ball to them like the one that was so helpful in doing that for Bama.

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:25 am

TN fans – why didn’t any of your players pick up the ball after the blocked kick and run it for a TD? It layed there for about 6 seconds with the camera and everyone else in the nation wondering why someone hasn’t fell on it or picked it up.

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:26 am

Stu,

Unsportsmanlike Conduct/Excessive Celebration is a deadball penalty enforced after the result of the play. That’s why the penalty (e.g. showboating in the endzone after a touchdown) is enforced on the kick. It’s not enforced by replaying the down. So, it would have been Bama’s ball around the 12-yard line. Since the clock at run out, the game was over.

Anyway, per the rule (which someone posted yesterday), once the ball stopped moving, the play was dead whether it crossed the line of scrimmage or not.

Although no one wants to hear this: The refs got this one right.

If it was a conspiracy to help Bama, why did the refs wait 60 minutes to cheat?

mightyKC

October 27th, 2009
11:26 am

arky OL was holding on mallets 75 yd TD throw….wah wah wah wah wah!

Cracker

October 27th, 2009
11:28 am

Got 12 in your mouth…. how many penalties did Bama have in the UT game?

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:29 am

Bamafan,

Julio and Rolando immediately went for the ball. And Nico was looking for the ball in the backfield.

By rule (which the players may not have known), the play was dead when the ball stopped moving whether it crossed the line of scrimmage or not.

DP

October 27th, 2009
11:30 am

Gen Neyland, Kiffin is not in a group with other SEC coaches who have complained about officiating mistakes this year. Petrino and Mullen cited mistakes on specific plays and they were right. Kiffin cited one specific play he thought was a mistake but it turns out he doesn’t understand the rule, that unsportsmanlike conduct is always enforced as a dead ball foul after the play so there would have been no 2nd try at the field goal.

But where Kiffin really stood out is that he challenged the integrity of the league with 2 comments, one about not running more plays because he was afraid of a “mystery flag” (he had different reasoning on Saturday, it took him some time to come up with that one) and a comment about Alabama and Florida continuing on, which played to the conspiracy theory crowd who thinks the SEC has instructed officials to favor them. I’ve been watching SEC football for a long time and don’t remember a coach ever challenging the integrity of the officials and the league before.

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:31 am

Gen Neyland: I think you said it best.
The official in the booth probably needs to be the best official in the stadium. Unfortunately even that won’t correct the bad ‘dead ball’ fouls that are called. Again, it happens because they are human. The speed of the game makes it difficult to see everything. They know how passionate fans are.

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:31 am

Cracker,

Bama had one penalty. UT had 8. UT’s penalties included several false starts/illegal motions by the offensive line, delay of game by Crompton, and blocking below the waste on a kickoff. These are not subjective calls. They are cut and dry.

Next question.

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:33 am

If the refs are cheating for Bama, why didn’t they give us the ball back after Ingram’s fumble?

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:33 am

waist not waste. lol

Gator Growl

October 27th, 2009
11:33 am

For you UGA and Arky fans STILL crying out there, heres a thought…. Maybe you lost the game because you didn’t play well enough to win! Maybe you (UGA) should have held the LSU offense in that last couple of minutes. Maybe you (ARK) should have made that critical field goal. I noticed Arkansas came out and really laid an egg the next game out against Mississippi. They were probably still consumed about “getting robbed” instead of being consumed about getting better.

help, I live in Ga

October 27th, 2009
11:34 am

Got 12: still doesn’t explain why he didn’t throw the flag. The ball was moving then. It wouldn’t have been enforced, but it shows the officials reluctance to penalize Bama.

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:35 am

DP: Good post and points.

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:35 am

I’ve been posting on the blog for a couple of years and have never read this much whining…ever. Does the AJC keep statistics? This has to be some kinda record.

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:39 am

help,

So they through the flag, and it’s Bama’s ball at the 12 with no time on the clock? They didn’t through the flag because the game was over.

Please cite examples of Bama penalties that were not called during the UT game.

I’m not trying to play the blame game but there were two obvious examples (PI in the endzone and blatant holding on a Crompton rollout) of missed called against UT.

goober

October 27th, 2009
11:39 am

How many ads does the AJC sell from these blogs? Obviously it’s the most popular item here, but does it make any money for the AJC? How does it help pay TB’s salary?

PMC

October 27th, 2009
11:40 am

I tend to believe the perception is the better teams get the calls because the challengers have more need for those calls to fall thier way. It doesn’t always even out but bad even incredibly lousy calls are a part of the game… aparently even in the video age.

Got 12?

October 27th, 2009
11:42 am

I’m heading to lunch. Quibble amongst yourselves until my return.

Obama for Heisman

October 27th, 2009
11:42 am

Unfortunately for MS State, being an idiot is not against the rules. Doe should have tucked the ball and ran to the back of the endzone but he didn’t. The call by the official was correct. Blame it on bad camera angles but not one that was presented during the replay gave a clear picture of where the ball was. If you watch the NFL, the officials always give the players the benefit of the doubt whether it be in-bounds calls, touchdown calls, catches, or whatever. Unfortunately for college football, we don’t have all the cameras on the field like they do. You can’t balme the official for this one…

GMan

October 27th, 2009
11:47 am

If we are talking about penalties and the rules, where is the one about bringing noise makers into the stadium? I guess MSU is exempt.

Lord of The Lizards

October 27th, 2009
11:48 am

DP, you make a couple of great points regarding Kiffins statements. This, of course, is the same idiot who didn’t know his recruiting rules and accused Meyer of cheating, this is the same idiot who flaunted secondary violations and made light of them as part of his “strategy” to get recruits and “put Tenn back on the map”. And now he basically is accusing the league of taking care of Bama and Florida. And his littlle insuation that the refs would find an excuse to throw a flag and affect the outcome was rememinicent of some of the Pahokee statements he made about the school somehow screwing up the fax paperwork for Nukeese Richardson. I think when Mike Slive revisits these most recent comments that he may well go ahead and take further action.