STARKVILLE – Against my better judgment, I am devoting this space today to officiating. Specifically, SEC football officials, that much-maligned group that’s about as popular as skinny dipping in the Amazon.
It’s been a bad October for the zebras. A slew of questionable – or outright blown – calls has led to the suspension of one crew and elicited criticism from several coaches, including Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.
He feels the Bulldogs were robbed of a fumble recovery last week against Florida. Gator linebacker Dustin Doe had the ball knocked from his hand just before he crossed the goal line on an interception return, but a touchdown was granted and the replay official upheld the call.
“I don’t know why we even have replay right now in the Southeastern Conference if they are not going to utilize it,” Mullen said Sunday. Those words, and many more like it, earned him a reprimand from SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.
I don’t have an explanation for this sudden rash of bad calls. Some other people do, though.
It’s a conspiracy!
The tinfoil hat wearers point to the fact that the most egregious officiating offenses have benefited Alabama, Florida and LSU, the top three teams in the conference. They argue that the SEC is trying to assure that one of those teams – most likely Alabama or Florida, both undefeated – winds up in the BCS championship game.
It’s like I tell the people who accuse me of being an Ole Miss homer/MSU hater: Conspiracy theories sound great until you start applying logic to them.
These people are assuming that the SEC is actually instructing officials to make calls that favor certain teams, even if those calls are clearly wrong and will get them suspended for several weeks.
“Uh, yeah, commish. I’d love to sacrifice doing what I love for a few weeks just to advance your nefarious plan for world domination.”
Let’s take a quick trip back to the recent past: Jan. 7, 2008. On that day, the LSU Tigers beat Ohio State to claim the BCS title, finishing the season with a 12-2 record.
Wait, whaaa? Two losses? Yeah, both in triple overtime, to Kentucky and Arkansas. Surely the officials could have found a call to make or not make in one or both of those games, because it wouldn’t have taken much to swing things in LSU’s favor in such tight contests.
But no, LSU lost those games fair and square. Just like LSU beat Georgia fair and square a few weeks ago, and like Florida beat Arkansas and MSU fair and square, and like Alabama beat Tennessee fair and square.
Does something need to be fixed with SEC officiating? Sure. I don’t know the solution – maybe it’s more accountability, more thorough replay review, or younger, more athletic officials – but I can’t buy that the problem is rooted in some secret plot to keep the SEC’s best teams at the top.
The truth: There was no second shooter on the grassy knoll, George W. Bush didn’t instigate 9/11, and the SEC’s best teams got to the top on their own.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal