ATHENS — Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity confirmed Monday the Bulldogs have asked the SEC to review the legality of a hit on Aaron Murray that required him to be helped off the field shortly before halftime in the SEC Championship game. But they need not have bothered; the league office is already looking into it.
Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial hit Murray with a above-the-shoulder, helmet-to-helmet strike after Murray threw an interception at the 1:15 mark of the second quarter. Crimson Tide defensive back Ha-Sean Clinton-Dix was in the midst of a 35-yard return when the 304-pound Dial left his feet and made contact with the side of Murray’s helmet toward the end of the play. Murray was out of the play and not in position to make the tackle.
McGarity said he was “stunned” when he saw the replay of the Dial’s hit — he missed it during live-game-action — and immediately moved to make sure the play was going to be reviewed.
“I actually didn’t see the hit until I saw it on YouTube (Sunday),” McGarity said of SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “It is definitely a play we will submit for review, but I’m sure that’s already being done. “I’m anxious to see what (SEC Commissioner Mike Slive) says about it.”
Steve Shaw, the SEC’s coordinator of officials, has already reviewed the play and determined that Saturday’s referees “missed the call.”
“By rule, you can’t hit a defenseless player above the shoulders,” Shaw told The Birmingham News. “What the determination needs to be is was this a defenseless player and was contact initiated above the shoulders? When we go through video review of it, that’s what we’ll have to determine. And then you as you break it down, did he lead with the head or lead with the shoulder? From game action, it was a personal foul regardless of how we break it down frame by frame.”
That would not have changed the ultimate outcome of the play. Alabama would have retained possession as the personal foul would have occurred well after the interception. But it would have backed it up 15 yards from the point of contact, which was near midfield.
Above-the-shoulders hits and “targeting” defenseless players have been a point of emphasis for the SEC this season and for all of football as the dangers of concussions have become better known. Slive suspended two players — Ole Miss defensive back Trae Elston and South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger – for one game each for such hits earlier this season. Dial will face the same fate, and the Crimson Tide’s next game is the BCS national championship.
NCAA rules mandate that conference offices review any flagrant personal foul or targeting for possible future punishment, whether a penalty was called on the field or not.
“We do want to stand up for our players when they are in serious danger of being injured,” McGarity said. “This is a case where it could have had serious implications on Aaron, not only in that game but in future games.”