Originally created 12/02/99

SEC officials suspended

ATLANTA -- The Southeastern Conference officiating crew that missed a crucial call in the Georgia-Georgia Tech game has been suspended by the league.

The seven-man crew, rated the best in the SEC, ruled that Georgia's Jasper Sanks fumbled at the 1-yard line in the final seconds of the game last Saturday. Television replays showed that the ball popped out after Sanks hit the ground.

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The score was tied at 48 when the ball was awarded to Tech. The Yellow Jackets went on to win 51-48 in overtime.

The suspension means the officials will not work Saturday's SEC title game between Florida and Alabama. Several of the officials involved also will lose their postseason assignments. SEC officials have not said whether the men could be fired.

The officiating crew included Al Ford of Florence, Ala.; Bud Williams of Tallahassee, Fla.; Ron Leatherwood of Waynesville, N.C.; Al Matthews of Duluth; Blake Parks of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Ben Oldham of Lexington, Ky.; and Toby Silberman of Lookout Mountain, Tenn.

Ford defended the call after the game, saying two of his officials saw the ball come loose before Sanks was down.

But he said Monday that Williams missed the call.

"I have seen the game and play since then, and at full-speed it's close," Ford said. "It is a bang-bang play, but when you slow it down, no one I have heard or seen has said it would be a fumble. It isn't a no-brainer though."

On Sunday, Bobby Gaston, the SEC supervisor of football officials, said that the officials were wrong.

The SEC office would not comment Wednesday on personnel decisions.

The Times Daily in Florence, Ala., reported Wednesday that the decision to suspend the crew was made by SEC commissioner Roy Kramer after a phone call from Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley.

Earlier this season, the ACC announced the suspension of a six-man crew for "game management errors" in North Carolina State's 35-31 victory over Clemson in Raleigh, N.C., on Oct. 9. The Wolfpack's final two touchdowns were questionable because the time clock had run out and a receiver trapped a pass in the end zone that was ruled complete.


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