Slive may have to adjust rule on coaches


Nobody asked me, but SEC Commissioner Mike Slive may eventually have to rethink and readjust his position on the coaches and their comments on officiating.

When Slive decided to get tough on coaches who commented negatively on officiating, it was absolutely the right thing to do at the time. And for the rest of this season the threat of fines and/or suspensions should stay in place. The atmosphere is just too toxic and every time there is a controversial call, like the one in last Saturday’s LSU-Alabama game, it just gets worse. So the rule needs to stay in place to keep a lid on things for the rest of this season.

But in the offseason when things calm down, the commissioner may need to take a second look at this policy. Here’s why. Somebody I respect a great deal in this business made this point to me. He didn’t give me permission to use his name so I won’t. But he did change my thinking on this issue.

When their teams get the short end of a bad officiating call, coaches feel compelled to say something. Because to say nothing makes them appear weak to some elements of their fan base. I saw one guy in a comment section take Les Miles to task this week because he decided to take the high road on the interception/non-interception call against Alabama. It was clear from Miles’ comments that he didn’t agree with the call but to some fans that’s not enough. They want fire and brimstone. It’s silly but it’s true.

When Georgia’s Mark Richt didn’t raise hell in public about the bad excessive celebration call in the LSU game Oct. 3, some people saw this as a signing of weakness in Richt. That’s also silly. Richt knew it was a bad call but handled the situation with class. Maybe I missed the memo, but when did that become a bad thing?

How about this for an adjustment to the rule for 2010? Coaches can say they disagree with a call. They can say that they saw the call differently than the guy who made it. They can even say the call was “disappointing.” But utter one word that questions the integrity of the officials (as Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin did after the Alabama game) or suggests that an official be “punished” (as Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen did after the Florida game) and the hammer comes down. Hard. Make the line for the coaches bright red and 100 feet tall. You cross it and you will pay a dear price.

Really good coaches push the envelope. In this league coaches have to do it just to survive. It could be the genie is out of the bottle on this one and can’t be put back in. Because the league is so competitive now and because the stakes are so high, the commissioner could be exactly right: Zero tolerance on this subject may be the only thing that will work with these guys.

But, within limits, we want a little feistiness in our coaches. It’s entertaining and college football is in the entertainment business. My friend told me that you can’t completely neuter these guys or the SEC, at least from a personality standpoint, will end up like the Big Ten.

God help us if that happens.


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195 comments Add your comment


November 11th, 2009
11:44 am

LSU fans point out a face mask not called against the Bama player but check out this LSU player grabbing Vlachos face mask.LSU fans are just whining making excues for why their team was wore out in the 2nd half.


November 11th, 2009
11:46 am

“the SEC, at least from a personality standpoint, will end up like the Big Ten.

God help us if that happens.”

LOL Tony made a funny

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kenny d

November 11th, 2009
11:48 am

I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time
in your first video the money bag in the ref’s hand is a nice touch!!!
the Tigers just need to pony up more money next year :-)

Not Disappointed!

November 11th, 2009
11:49 am

Eric don’t let M or anyone else take your joy.

Ramblin Wreck!


November 11th, 2009
11:54 am

For the conspiracy theorists out there, it is obvious that Slive and co. want an undefeated UF/UA in the SEC Champ. Why? Two guarrantee 2 teams in the BCS bowls. How much money does the BCS teams rake in for their respective conferences. How much does an appearence in the MNC rake in? It’s obvious that it is all about greed and how much money overall the SEC can rake in. As if the new ESPN contract was not enough. If making the BCS bowls gets a team $10 mil and making the MNC nets a team say $20 mil for the SEC. That’s $30 mil to the conference (Just throwing numbers out there, do not know what the accurate numbers are). That’s why the odds fave UF/UA) gets the benefits of the calls. Have to assure that both teams get in the BCS. We all know there are missed calls in virtually every game, But some of the calls are to blatant.


November 11th, 2009
12:00 pm


Why would Slive want Bama in the SEC champ game?Had LSU beat Bama and LSU won out they would’ve been in the SEC champ game.SEC is represented either way.Florida,Bama and LSU all had a chance Bama and Florida prevailed though.

Vol Fan

November 11th, 2009
12:04 pm

Richt may handle bad calls with class but that will only enable the next bad call against UGA. I saw it with Fulmer and Spurrier. Spurrier got all the close calls and Phil just took it like a gentlemen. Spurriers best red zone pass route was to run into the defender push him off and turn around…..touchdown gators. Wow, that Spurrier is a genius…..NOT. I’m thankful there’s a new sheriff in Knoxville. Lane will stand up for his players and will NOT take any crap from anyone. I love it.

Mike Slive

November 11th, 2009
12:05 pm

I say fire me!!! But, I will have an undefeated Bama and FL in the SECCG though! LOL!!!!!!!!!

SEC fan

November 11th, 2009
12:09 pm

The SEC is a great football conference. We have huge stadiums, a massive and fanatically loyal fan following and our teams are the most competitive in the nation overall. However officiating in the SEC is of poor quality inferior to other conferences. In fact it is so bad that is may be corrupt!

Michael Slive needs to answer to the university presidents on this. Just maybe they should fire him over this.

And yes! Give the coaches much more room to complain about the poor officiating. Bad calls are controlling the outcome of many games!


November 11th, 2009
12:10 pm

Doh!! …not another blog entry about officiating. The cable show must be taking away from your material. Let the leagues handle it and give it a rest already!!


November 11th, 2009
12:16 pm

Regardless, The SEC has 2 teams in the SEC Champ. That’s what it is all about. 2 SEC teams in the SEC Champ. THe SEC has to have 2 or more superior teams in conference to guarrantee 2 BCS teams. Lets say that LSU with 2 losses is joined by UA with 2 or more losses and a not so good offense. What are the chances of the SEC having 2 BCS teams? With an undefeated UF, they are sure to be given the SEC Champ to represent the SEC in the BCS MNC. If UA loses to UF in the SEC CHamp as a 3 loss team would they still have a shot at the BCS. A 3 loss UA team allows an open door to 2 non BCS teams to make the BCS. Now with the BCS model, that sure as hell can’t happen. That would be opening up a whole other can of worms.


November 11th, 2009
12:17 pm


If I were a Coach that got hosed by a call, as Georgia did in the LSU game, I wouldn’t say word one about the call; instead, I’d tee off against the rule that prohibits me from complaining about bad calls. I sure would like to see how Commissioner Slive would handle that one.

Coaches ought be allowed to complain when referees get it wrong; for the SEC to muzzle the coaches, only perpetuates the perception that it [the SEC] is trying to control everything that goes on during the season, including which teams make it to the BCS. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not one to point to the grassy knoll. I just think that the rule goes too far. And, like your unnamed source, I also think that forcing coaches to say only nice things about an officiating crew that just caused your team to lose a season changing game, leaves the fan base scratching its collective head, wondering “Coach? Are you not with us on this one?”


November 11th, 2009
12:17 pm

Here’s a suggestion … take the officiating responsibilities away from the conferences and put it under the authority of the NCAA. Not that I’m a particularly big fan of the NCAA, but at least that would eliminate the “conspiracy theory” that the SEC office has an agenda.

Another suggestion … instead of having a single replay official to evaluate questionable calls, have a panel of officials who will monitor the challenged calls from across the country on any given Saturday. With the technology available, it’s not necessary to have the replay official on-site at the game. All challenges could be routed to an off-site location where a panel of 3, 5, or seven judges would examine the evidence and make a ruling … simple majority wins! This, too, could eliminate (or at least reduce) the potential for bias, especially if the panel of judges were composed of officials from throughout the country.


November 11th, 2009
12:19 pm

Just a thought, but if I’m a head coach with a multi million dollar contract, I pay the $30k and get my point across. When a bad call, or two or three, changes what could have been three wins to three losses, I could be out of a job.

G Force

November 11th, 2009
12:21 pm

It’s time to change the culture and stop beotching about the officiating. A particular coach won’t be viewed as weak if none of the coaches can question the officials’ personal and professional integrity and get away with it.

The coaches should be able to mention that they questioned such and such call and sent a tape to the league office for review and that’s it. No questioning the officials’ integrity; no insisting on suspensions or other disciplinary action; and no idiotic rants. It’s not the coaches job to review the officials’ job performance. No one here would want the performance appraisal for their job conducted in public. STFU and play ball!


November 11th, 2009
12:24 pm

He NEEDS to get tough on the officials!!! We’re not asking for perfection….but, WHAT is the point in sending in ‘missed calls’ to the sec offices when they’ve already had such an effect on the outcome of games?! They need to start replacing some of their refs….they’ve proven to be most inept!!!


November 11th, 2009
12:26 pm

The SEC is getting more and more absurd. Slive has done a horrible job representing all programs (he represents some like a freakin lobbyist), and now he thinks the conference should be entirely immune from hearing about its mistakes? The two teams “destined” to meet for a BCS play in game have been getting beneficial calls all year (UF some, Bama with absolutely blatant frequency), and fans and the media need to stop ignoring it.

I know UGA fans don’t want to hear this, but we need someone like Spurrier to take over this conference. He’s tough and honest, and he’d put an end to Bama immunity coming out of Birmingham. I just hope Slive doesn’t end up at the NCAA level.


November 11th, 2009
12:26 pm

There are a lot of comments saying that if the refs make mistakes, they should be fired. Fine, yet where do you get new ones with the experience necessary to step into they huge frenzied crowds and perform better?

What is the solution to fixing the officiating situation? More training? Maybe. Make them full time? Maybe. Form a national assigning organization that eliminates regional biases? Maybe. Will any of this eliminate the human element and thus all mistakes? Never.
I can think of several times over the years where the team I pull for has been the victim of a poor officiating decision. I can also think of times where my team has benefited from a poor call. What do you do then?

I believe you simply must teach the players that life is not fair. This is a life lesson. If we go through life thinking all should be fair we will be sorely disappointed. I am not saying we simply accept mistakes from officials. We should expect a near 100% accuracy rate in their decisions. Do we place the same impetus on the coaches and players? One bad game and we fire all players and coaches?

I do believe coaches should be able to express displeasure with officials, yet I think it should be done in a professional manner. Don’t whine, don’t keep it going, and for goodness sake don’t impugn the integrity of the entire league publicly. If you believe that, say it privately to the league commissioner and not in a press conference.

For those that think the SEC wants 2 undefeated teams because that gets 2 into the BCS, of course they do. Tell me which conference does not want that? I don’t know the answer to this, yet has there ever been a season where there was not 2 SEC schools in BCS bowl games?

To sell the conspiracy theory is ludicrous. Yet I am not naive enough to say impossible.

Folks we are simply talking about a game. We want our teams to do well, and probably want other teams to do poorly. Yet this is just a game. If we spent half our time doing things beneficial to the world that we spend fussing over this game, imagine the difference we could make. Just saying.

NC football fan

November 11th, 2009
12:29 pm

Does anyone know what angles the replay judges get? Do they get the exact same angles available to the public during the broadcast.

G Force

November 11th, 2009
12:29 pm

Dawgfan1911, I agree… take the officiating responsibilities away from the conferences and put it at the national level. The rules will be the same for all, and the conspiracy theories will quiet down a little.

Tony, it looked (for a moment) like we put this topic behind us yesterday. There’s got to be some good games / matchups to discuss…even if it’s for rivalry weekend 2.5 weeks from now.


November 11th, 2009
12:30 pm

GKM and Macrotech agreed. Refs have only been suspended once, the SEC has a system in place to review the refs but no published detailsm and no coaches are fined for speaking out. It makes a perfect storm for the media and fans from other conferences to run with. The Coaches must go public to make the SEC change, Slive has shown no intention of changing.


November 11th, 2009
12:34 pm

Personal foul on TB — excessive whining. Life isn’t fair — get over it.

Tech Bandwagon Fan

November 11th, 2009
12:41 pm

Blah, Blah, Blah. We’re better than the SEC. Blah, Blah, Blah. The SEC is a bunch of cheaters. Blah, Blah, Blah. Paul Johnson is going to stay a Tech for the next 40 years and win 40 National Championships. Look at me! Hey, someone pay attention to me!

Ga boy

November 11th, 2009
12:55 pm

It’s a game people- get over it. The officials are human and will make mistakes-always have, always will. The coaches are not perfect-the players are not perfect- so why should anyone want or expect perfection from the refs. And in truth you only demand perfection when the calls go against your team.


November 11th, 2009
1:00 pm

Eric – you’d let one idiot sour you on Tech. Boy, you must really be sick of the dogs then.


November 11th, 2009
1:10 pm

I have always believed the SEC should move its offices out of Birmingham to Atlanta, Jacksonville, or maybe even Chattanooga. It is hard to be non-baised in a town where you go to church, school, and shop with Alabama fans. It would be the same reason the SEC had to move the SEC championship game out of Birmingham. It was a home game if Alabama played in it. Atlanta as a city is so big and has so many fans from other schools, I believe the move could take a lot of pressure off of the officials.

What are you STUPID?

November 11th, 2009
1:13 pm

RAMBLE ON! can’t wait till you get a taste of SEC refs. I hope they somehow screw you out of big win. Then you can run your mouth.

What are you STUPID?

November 11th, 2009
1:16 pm

Review all the calls they screw up and correct them before the tape is sent to Birmingham for wrong way rodgers to review. It does absolutely nothing to here him say, yep, we screwed up sorry you lost that game.due to bad calls.


November 11th, 2009
1:17 pm

My problem is not so much with the human error of the calls this year, but the outright idiocy in the replay booth to not overturn an obviously bad call! It’s gotten so bad to the point where fans at home AND the TV announcers are questioning whether they are seeing the same replay we are!


November 11th, 2009
1:22 pm

Coaches in any league should be allowed to say, “I disagree with the call. I will submit a request for review of the play to the league office.” This should be allowed immediately, no waiting for next year.

NC football fan

November 11th, 2009
1:44 pm

You said-
“It’s gotten so bad to the point where fans at home AND the TV announcers are questioning whether they are seeing the same replay we are!”

The problem with this is the announcers often do not know the rules. And that is in many sports, not just SEC football.

Ernie Johnson/Pete Van Wieren often had a rule book in the booth with them during Braves’ games and would occasionally look up rules and then explain.

I retired from officiating a few years ago. Prior to that I was a referee at a fairly high level, and several times I was on television. I would record the games when on television and watch them later. I heard announcers say absolutely stupid things. Often these folks, who had played or coached at a very high level, were not aware of rules and called us out on the air. While we certainly were not perfect (who is) at least we knew the rules. One particular announcer went so far as to question our integrity and said we need more training. He was blatantly incorrect in his assessment on this incident, and the league let him know. This was never publicly announced, and the announcer certainly never made it public, nor did he ever apologize.

I say this to say: don’t believe all you hear from announcers or even coaches. While they know the game, they may not know all aspects and applications of the rule books.

Now as for fans-we all know fans are never biased in their view of a game, right?

Got 12?

November 11th, 2009
1:45 pm

When I see saw the replays, I thought it was an interception. A couple of days ago, a guy, claiming to be a former ref, called into Finebaum. He said Julio was out of bounds when he touched ball as Peterson caught it so the ball was out of bounds and the play was dead. The placement of Peterson’s feet was a moot point. Since the SEC refuses to comment, who knows.

The bottomline is that, like Bama in the SECC game last year, LSU had the lead going into the fourth quarter but was shutdown and outplayed by a superior opponent. Game over.

If Les isn’t whining, why are you?


November 11th, 2009
1:47 pm

Chris is correct, as are you, Tony. Human error happens, and perception is a tricky thing, especially when there’s a fast-paced game going on. I accept that. But badly blown calls are badly blown calls (and badly blown *reviewed* calls are inexcusable), and for a coach to not even be able to say they disagree is asinine.

And yes, it is awfully amusing that teams only complain about calls that go against them, never the stuff they get away with. :P Rarely does one call decide a game–it happens on occasion (Giants-49ers, anyone?)–but it is the exception. Even had some of these controversial calls this season not happened, or gone the other way, there is hardly a guarantee that the outcome of the games would have changed. In fact, I don’t think any of the games would have ended any differently.


November 11th, 2009
1:48 pm

Chris, you nailed it. We can all agree that human error is going to happen. The problem that is more galling is that replay officials have the luxury of watching the plays over and over again and still not get it right. This is not 1999 where you had to live with a poor, game-changing call with no recourse. It’s 2009 and you should be able to recognize in super slow motion an interception when you see it. Millions of others not in the booth can.

Afternoon Headlines |

November 11th, 2009
1:57 pm

[...] spend more money on officiating.2.  Tony Barnhart of The AJC thinks Mike Slive should give coaches SOME opportunity to voice displeasure with officials’ calls when asked about them.3.  The Music City Bowl will be closely watching [...]

Supersize that order, mutt

November 11th, 2009
2:12 pm

Hold the refs accountable, not the coaches. Make penalties subject to review just like other plays. So what if a ref’s judgement call is overturned; it might increase his diligence and/or honesty and integrity in the future. And for those innocent judgement calls that are wrong, then I would think that any referee with integrity would want to know without a doubt.

Big time?? Not

November 11th, 2009
2:28 pm

Four tickets, four hot dogs, four cokes

Terrell T.O. Owens

November 11th, 2009
2:28 pm

Freedom of Speech is good.


November 11th, 2009
2:44 pm

I think refs treat some teams in the SEC the same way umpires treat rookies in major league baseball or ref in NBA basketball. If you are a superstar you get the call, if you are poor Mississippi
State or modern day Tennessee you are behind at kick off and have to overcome. The first thing these new coaches want to do is establish the old way is no longer and a new set of rules in fairness or even prejudice is in its place. The last thing an old blue blood wants is change, so for Georgia it is good to put a stop on criticism of the ref. They do a lot of double talk, and they act like Eddie Haskel in leave it to beaver for the public, but many of the bad calls they get are make up calls for one they didn’t get earlier in a game. I think the celebration call came after a game full of cheap shots and trash talk from Georgia. As Richt looks like an angel, his players are acting like anything but.

another dawg in ptc

November 11th, 2009
3:00 pm

When the coaches are making $200,000-400,000 per win, it is not a game.
When the SEC is making billions in tv revenue, it is not a game.

The SEC has been reduced to American Idol and Dancing With the Stars. It doesn’t matter who has the most talent, but who can DELIVER the big tv ratings. Dial 1-800-BAD CALLS and vote for your favorite team to win next week.


November 11th, 2009
3:35 pm


You’re a member of a profession whose very existence is protected by the First Amendment. And yet you’re arguing coaches’ free speech shouldn’t be protected? That’s incredible hypocrisy, and I’m not even sure what it buys you.

Coaches should say what they want and take the risks that comes with it. A coach understands politics — he’s not going to complain about officiating to the extent it might cost his team some calls or make his fan base think he’s a whiner.

I think Slive is building a policy around an edge case — that coaches turn college football into the Jerry Springer Show, which is extremely unlikely.


November 11th, 2009
3:38 pm

Coach Miles has a pretty solid track record of being a stand-up guy.

I have no problem at all with how he “publicly” handled the interception call.

What’s done is done. It’s not like there’s something Miles can say or do that will change the outcome of the game. Even after that call LSU had chances to win. I’m willing to bet that Miles understands this.

He understands there are more games to play and that next year is another year.

Miles took the high road. Good for him.


November 11th, 2009
3:41 pm

Got 12,

Julio never touched the ball. Peterson knocked him out of the way. There are photos all over the internet showing Julio Jones completely out of bounds as Peterson puts his hands on the ball.

I can send the pic to you if you’d like.


November 11th, 2009
3:47 pm

How about they do a better job training selecting and training officials? How about that?

College Football

November 11th, 2009
4:04 pm

Michael Slive,
Your SEC officials are an embarrassment to the sport. They are either totally incompetent or corrupt. One or the other! Which is it? Either way it is unacceptable!
College Football

Urban Meyer

November 11th, 2009
4:07 pm

Do I have to really pay that fine? Gee! Everyone else here thinks the refs stink! I mean I hate to whine about it, well, not really, I don’t mind whining — yea, I know, I do kind of whine a lot. But when I am tanned, exfoliated and have just come from the salon I know that I look really good!
Urban Meyer
Go Gators!


November 11th, 2009
4:23 pm

Instant replay on ALL calls, including penalties MUST be installed.

Old Dawg

November 11th, 2009
4:31 pm

I agree with the human error aspect of officiating. At the same time replays reviews have eliminated mistakes from the majority of bigger calls. But then you have calls like excessive celebration where there isn’t a standard. The call against Washington last year and Georgia earlier this season come to mind, and the allowing of Tebow to dance around like a cheerleader completely muddy the call and fans’ respect for officials.

I don’t dislike Tebow as a player, just his actions. Fair’s fair, and the inability of the SEC and other conferences to have a consistent policy on celebration is way over due.

As for coaches comments, I like it when they display class and don’t use the tactics of professional wrestlers and their managers.


November 11th, 2009
4:50 pm

Les Miles taking the high road is like Bill Clinton taking a marriage counseling class.