I think most of you know those letters stand for something special in college football.
The Southeastern Conference.
It has long been one of the best conferences in the country. From the players to the officials to commissioner Mike Slive.
But I’m not sure what those letters stand for anymore.
Something happened in the Alabama-Tennessee game Saturday night that has me irritated. Well, I actually passed irritated two weeks ago when I was hot about this happening in the Auburn-Mississippi State game. I’ve moved on to really pissed now.
The “this” I’m referring to is the abuse of the communications system used by the SEC.
Two weeks ago, the officials at the Auburn-Mississippi State game were noticeably talking to someone, somewhere over their communications system at Davis Wade Stadium, who gave them information to pick up a flag for intentional grounding. It was an absolute farce.
What happened Saturday night in Tennessee was just as obvious -- and just as bad. Here was the situation:
Tennessee had the ball, fourth-and-4 at the Tennessee 42-yard line with 7:20 left in the first quarter. Alabama led 13-0. The Vols’ Matt Darr punted the ball 48 yards and the Tide’s Cyrus Jones signaled for a fair catch and caught it. There was a personal foul called on the play.
This play clearly demonstrated it happened again. From the time the ball was snapped for the punt until a decision was made by referee Matt Moore, 2:36 elapsed. During that time, you could obviously see the group of officials that had huddled were getting input from someone. Someone, somewhere, was giving them information on the personal foul penalty that was called a dead-ball foul on the kicking team.
What? Are you kidding me?
Two weeks ago, I asked the national coordinator of officials, Rogers Redding, who also happens to be the former coordinator of officials for the SEC, about this and he vehemently denied this process was taking place. He said the communications system was only for use of the officials on the field and no other person was on that system.
Here’s the deal: I greatly respect the SEC. They have the strongest football conference in the country. They’ve had an incredible commissioner in Slive, who is retiring July 31, 2015. What Slive has done for the SEC -- and for the total landscape of college football -- is incredible. He’s had a great impact on the game.
But now I think it’s time to challenge the SEC’s credibility and integrity when it comes to officiating.
Some conferences have been allowed to experiment by using an eighth official on the field. I don’t particularly like it, but I understand it. The SEC also has an eighth official on one crew, as well as an alternate official who actually stands on the line of scrimmage. He’s also been given approval to give input on specific calls from the line of scrimmage, such as the quarterback being beyond or behind the line of scrimmage when he releases the pass.
But now it appears the SEC has someone that nobody else has -- a mystery man. I’m not sure where he is, but he’s providing information to the officials on the field. If the SEC denies it, they’re not telling the truth.
Here’s the solution: Put all of the conferences on microphones and let them talk to somebody upstairs. Get rid of replay. Let that person upstairs make decisions on everything. From face mask calls to pass interference to personal fouls, as they did in this case, and intentional grounding like they did two weeks ago in that Auburn-Mississippi State game.
Does the SEC have its own set of rules? Yes. And it’s not right what they’re doing.
It was unacceptable in that Auburn-Mississippi State game -- and it was unacceptable in the Alabama-Tennessee game. If Slive condones this and Redding fails to investigate and stop it, then the SEC and the NCAA have a big problem in officiating. In my eyes, their officiating staff is losing their credibility.
It hurts me to challenge the integrity of officials -- it really does. When I think about it, I’m not challenging them as much as I’m challenging the integrity of the officiating department in the SEC for telling them to use this system this way when it’s not allowable by rule. The SEC doesn’t need any more advantages than it already has. They’re already the best. They should let their officials officiate with the same tools as the other officials in all of the other conferences.
They know about it, they’ve been asked about it, yet they continue to let it happen.
I liked those initials much better when they stood for something more.
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