Tough times for SEC

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- The Southeastern Conference is the Rolls-Royce of college football leagues, with the past three national champions, two teams in the running for this season's title and huge TV contracts.

Boom times for sure. But troubled ones, too.

The league has been dealing with seemingly endless questions stemming from a string of controversial officiating calls in close games involving highly ranked teams. That followed a preseason run-in with national media outlets over a new SEC policy.

The in-season issues forced commissioner Mike Slive to make the unusual moves of publicly announcing the suspension of an officiating crew, increasing the penalties for coaches who criticize officials and fining Florida coach Urban Meyer $30,000 for less-than-inflammatory -- though critical -- remarks after the new policy was in place.

"Has it been difficult? Yes. Has it been painful? Yes," Slive said this week in an interview with The Associated Press. "But this league has been a great league for 76 years. There have been different issues at different times. I fully understand the disappointment the fans feel when something happens that impacts their team."

While No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Alabama have been vying for a national championship this season, the guys in the black and white-striped uniforms have been drawing more attention to the SEC than Slive would like.

Three coaches have been reprimanded for public complaints, and Meyer's comments cost him the equivalent of about two days' pay.

The latest controversy arose when officials ruled that LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson did not have possession of the ball inbounds on a play that might have been an interception. The instant replay official didn't find the "indisputable video evidence" needed to overturn the call.

Public relations issues started before the season, when the SEC imposed a new media policy to protect rights for its new SEC Digital Network. The league released new guidelines after a protest from four leading media organizations.

"In the final analysis, most everyone got what they were looking for, with some exceptions," Slive said.

That was a minor inconvenience compared to the officiating problems.

Slive said he, coordinator of officials Rogers Redding and others would meet after the season and assess the causes of officiating mistakes "and make sure that we have the best officiating in the country."

David Parry certainly agrees. Now the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, he is a former NFL official who supervised officials in the Big Ten.

"It goes in cycles a little bit," Parry said. "This has been a tough-luck year for the SEC. They have some of the finest officials in the world. All their games are evaluated, all their calls are cross-checked. My guess is at the end of the year they'll look at their data and say they had a pretty darn good year in spite of two or three calls."

The normally diplomatic Slive has had to wield a big stick to silence miffed coaches. When Tennessee's outspoken coach Lane Kiffin was publicly dismissive of his second reprimand, the league boss hammered out a sharply worded letter of warning four days before announcing that the league would skip reprimands and go straight to fines or suspensions.

"Since it is clear from your public comments that you believe this letter 'mean(s) nothing,' let me be equally as clear to you," Slive wrote to Kiffin in the Oct. 26 letter obtained from the University of Tennessee. "The next time you, or a member of your staff, make public comments of this nature, you will be suspended from all coaching duties for one or more games, and the institution may be subjected to a substantial fine."

Kiffin demurred when asked Wednesday if he was worried that all the negative attention was tarnishing the SEC's image.

"I don't know. I've never thought about it," he said. "We're not allowed to say anything about it. I don't have anything for you. Sorry."

BACKGROUND: The Southeastern Conference has been plagued by controversy this season over officiating calls in close games.

DEVELOPMENTS:

- On Oct. 21, an officiating crew was suspended after it called penalties the league said were not supported by video evidence in the LSU-Georgia game Oct. 3 and the Arkansas-Florida game Oct. 17. The SEC publicly announced the suspensions, an unprecedented move by the conference.

- On Oct. 22, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was reprimanded by SEC commissioner Mike Slive for making critical statements about officiating in the Oct. 17 Razorbacks' 23-20 loss at Florida.

- On Oct. 25, Tennessee's Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen each went off on the officiating in their Saturday games. Kiffin's Volunteers lost 12-10 at Alabama and Mullen's Bulldogs lost 29-19 to Florida.

- On Oct. 26, the SEC responded by reprimanding both Kiffin and Mullen for violating league ethics rules. The league made no public admonishment of the calls that Kiffin and Mullen complained about.

- On Oct. 30, after three SEC coaches in two weeks, received reprimands for ripping officials, the conference decided that future punishment for similar antics would be fines and suspensions.

- On Nov. 6, the SEC fined Florida coach Urban Meyer $30,000 for saying referees missed a late hit against Georgia on quarterback Tim Tebow, making him the first coach punished under the league's new policy of skipping public reprimands and going straight to fines or suspension.

- LSU coach Les Miles spoke with Slive and coordinator of officials Rogers Redding about a near-interception by Patrick Peterson late in the Tigers' 24-15 loss to Alabama. Officials ruled Peterson caught the ball out of bounds and replay officials did not overturn the call, though video showed the LSU defensive back might have had a foot down in bounds.

OF NOTE: The Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences also use public reprimands, fines and suspensions as penalties for coaches who are publicly critical of officiating.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

- Georgia Tech at Duke, Noon (ESPN2)

- Clemson at N.C. State, Noon (Fox-Ch. 54)

- Furman at Georgia Southern, 2 p.m. (no TV)

- Florida at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m. (CBS-Ch. 12)

- Auburn at Georgia, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Comments (26) Add comment
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smartie
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smartie 11/12/09 - 03:38 am
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hey, i've seen better

hey, i've seen better officiating in wwf wrestling match, than what i saw in the georgia games this year. they've practically stolen four games from us. we'd be right in the midst of a national championship season if it weren't for these idiots.

AbdulWahidMuhammed
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AbdulWahidMuhammed 11/12/09 - 04:15 am
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and your "defense"....

and your "defense"....

wildman
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wildman 11/12/09 - 04:24 am
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I'm a huge UGA fan but I

I'm a huge UGA fan but I don't think we would be close to being in the thick of things. The refs have pretty much sucked this year, with the camera ref a call should never be wrong. Slive must admit that Florida and Bama have been on the good side of the bad calls. Florida may have lost at least two games, one for sure.

yousocrazy74
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yousocrazy74 11/12/09 - 04:34 am
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smartie don't you have some

smartie don't you have some black and white issue to comment on?

smartie
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smartie 11/12/09 - 04:37 am
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eh! the run defense isn't

eh! the run defense isn't bad. however, i'm interested myself, in what the infidels will soon learn. spill it, brother!

smartie
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smartie 11/12/09 - 04:39 am
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and, also, i love the black

and, also, i love the black and white issues. not all white people are as open-minded as i am. you know, they don't accept change as well as me.

smartie
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smartie 11/12/09 - 05:06 am
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don't you agree, yousocrazy?

don't you agree, yousocrazy? come on, give me some feedback, before i decide to throw my hat in the ring for the district 22 seat.

jaschild
9
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jaschild 11/12/09 - 05:37 am
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lsu you woulda won! and miss

lsu you woulda won! and miss st would have beaten lsu! and fl would have lost to uga! wait, that last one was a stretch...RTR!

robaroo
877
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robaroo 11/12/09 - 06:46 am
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I know humans make mistakes.

I know humans make mistakes. Some bad calls are just unavoidable. But, the missed calls I've seen this season have been potential game changers. Would Alabama still be undefeated if the referees had gotten the interception call right? At some point, you have to wonder if some bad calls were deliberate.

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 11/12/09 - 07:58 am
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i was watching that LSU / FL

i was watching that LSU / FL game.. if that wasn't an interception I don't know what is.. And I don't even watch football! (roommate had it on)

YellowHammer
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YellowHammer 11/12/09 - 08:20 am
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Trying to infer that Bama

Trying to infer that Bama would've lost had the call gone the other way is a stretch. LSU would have had to drive the whole field against a defense that completely shut them down the entire 4th quarter. We can say coulda, woulda, shoulda all day; but in this case, the better team won. One glance at the stats tells the tale.

themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 11/12/09 - 08:36 am
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What is the world coming to?

What is the world coming to? Did Urban Meyer pysically attack an official? Do we not have free speech( within boundaries) in America? Urban Meyer should have went on and punched the official out then jumped on top of him and beat the --- out of him. He would have only gotten a $1000 fine and maybe probation in a court of law. I guess next the SEC will be fining the fans for booing a disagreeable call by the officials. Where does the SEC get their authority from? /football is a major moneymaker for all colleges, and if I were the president of the University of Florida, I would be making all kind of noise about my coach being levied such a fine for exercising his right to have an opinion. Basically what the SEC is saying is that they have the ability to control the outcome of all games, and none has the authority to contest them. This really irks me.

Georgiais1
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Georgiais1 11/12/09 - 08:44 am
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Ga would have beat LSU if it

Ga would have beat LSU if it had not been for the celebration call against Green at the end of the game. No way would LSU went the full legnth of the field in the time that was left if we kick it in the end zone.

Galan Lewis
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Galan Lewis 11/12/09 - 09:23 am
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I could not agree more

I could not agree more YellowHammer. Even if the call was overturned, they would have had to run a play like Julio Jones did earlier in the game. SEC Championship here we come!!! RollTide!!!!

Jake
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Jake 11/12/09 - 09:42 am
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The outcome of the games

The outcome of the games should be decided between the players of the 2 teams that are down on the field with minimal interference from the officials. It is unfortunate when the officials take control of the game away from the players. I have watched a lot of football and seen it many times but this year in the SEC it seems to be worse than usual.

MadSnapper
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MadSnapper 11/12/09 - 10:19 am
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Smartie you need to change

Smartie you need to change your name if you think UGA would be in the middle of a championship hunt. What call was it that cost them the Florida, OSU, UT or any other game? Heads or tails maybe?

themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 11/12/09 - 10:37 am
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UGA in a championship hunt,

UGA in a championship hunt, yeah right! And I could have shot that twelve pointer if he had just came by my stand last week, that is if there is a twelve pointer some where in the woods where I was hunting.I'm sure there was, ---- there had to be. Oh well, maybe next year.

imdstuf
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imdstuf 11/12/09 - 10:50 am
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This is no fluke. Mike Slive

This is no fluke. Mike Slive knows what he is doing. I am sure he paid those suspended refs under the table. The SEC wants one of their teams in the national title game again and they are blatantly cheating to get one in.

justus4
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justus4 11/12/09 - 12:57 pm
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Diversity is the answer.
Unpublished

Diversity is the answer. Non-minority men will not be honest in making complex calls on players that do not look like them. The recent bad calls are nothing because they are just the obvious ones, there has been plenty before that the brothas knew were bad, however, the old guys needs replacing. This is just a good start - the SEC refs should look more like the players, whose actually giving all the efforts and not being paid a dime. The universities reap the big dollars...what a great scheme.

NowhereManny
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NowhereManny 11/12/09 - 01:46 pm
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Too late justus - the game is

Too late justus - the game is over - we all know you are just a pot-stirrer poseur and doing this just for fun. It was amusing while it lasted. I hope your mommy makes you some nice Cream O Wheat for dinner.

Boogaloo
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Boogaloo 11/12/09 - 03:26 pm
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More like Uncle Ben's

More like Uncle Ben's converted rice I would think.

Boogaloo
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Boogaloo 11/12/09 - 03:30 pm
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Hey, I just noticed the first

Hey, I just noticed the first photo of the officials and the letters on their backs spell BUSH. No wonder they are incompetent.

john
1211
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john 11/12/09 - 03:50 pm
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You nailed it Boogaloo! That

You nailed it Boogaloo! That friggin Bush.

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 11/12/09 - 04:59 pm
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The Fla / Ark debacle was the
Unpublished

The Fla / Ark debacle was the worst. Ark was robbed!

smartie
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smartie 11/12/09 - 09:08 pm
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i don't know, justus. the

i don't know, justus. the behavior i read about in the paper, pertaining to your "brothas", makes me think that prison football may be the next big marketing frenzy. seems to me, that their's a gracious plenty of your "brothas" incarcerated, that would easily make up an entire league.

puppydog
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puppydog 11/13/09 - 09:31 am
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The refs must have been blind

The refs must have been blind in the LSU-AL game. That was definitely an interception. The TV station played the replay 100 times & even the announcers were saying it was an interception. They showed his foot over & over being in bounds. How do the officials get away with this? With all these bads calls, it is obvious they were favoring AL & FL. They rigged the SEC playoff game. It needs to be investigated. Penalizing coaches who legitimately complain about this conspiracy & these fraudulent calls by the refs is ludicrous. Please somebody call for an investigation. The SEC playoff is fixed!

Galan Lewis
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Galan Lewis 11/13/09 - 12:07 pm
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whatever puppydog....even if

whatever puppydog....even if it was called an interception, LSU would have had to drive the whole field against a defense that completely shut them down the entire 4th quarter. The better team won regardless.

salmon910
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salmon910 11/13/09 - 12:54 pm
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there's no difference between

there's no difference between NBA refs and the NCAA football refs . . . woe to Las Vegas dealers

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