Head of SEC officials says crew made incorrect clock stoppage
Posted: Monday September 20, 2004 12:18AM; Updated: Monday September 20, 2004 12:18AM
The Southeastern Conference's supervisor of officials said Sunday the crew working the Tennessee-Florida game erred in handling the clock, allowing the Volunteers more time on their final drive, which ended with a game-winning field goal.
The mistake occurred when Florida receiver Dallas Baker was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after DeShawn Wynn was stopped on a third-down run with 55 seconds left in the game, with the Gators leading 28-27 Saturday night.
After the penalty, the officials placed the ball on the ground and began running the clock on the snap for Florida's fourth-down punt.
Bobby Gaston, the SEC supervisor of officials, said because it was a running play, the clock should have started on the "ready" -- when the referee winds his arm -- and not the snap.
"We left it to start on the snap when we should have started it on the wind," Gaston told The Associated Press on Sunday night. "If there's a penalty, you always go back to the result of the previous play, which was a run."
Gaston was at the game and noticed the mistake.
"I did, but the crew didn't," Gaston said. "But I'm not down there on the field. Unfortunately, I realized we had missed it."
James Wilhoit kicked a 50-yard field goal with 6 seconds left and No. 11 Tennessee (2-0, 1-0 SEC) won 30-28, its first win over No. 16 Florida (1-1, 0-1) at home since 1998, the year the Vols won the national championship.
Messages left for Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton and Vols coach Phil Fulmer late Sunday were not immediately returned.
Gaston would not comment to the AP on the penalty on Baker, but Florida Today, which first reported the story on its Web site Sunday, quoted Gaston as saying both teams could have been penalized on the play.
"After looking at it, it appears to me it should have been an offset, that both sides were equally responsible and then the clock should have started on the ready for play," Gaston told the newspaper. "You just offset it and put the ball down where it was and wind the clock."
Gaston said there's "accountability with our officials," but any punishment issued would be discussed with both schools and decided by the SEC's commissioner. He said any punishment would not be made public.
Gaston said he didn't know if the mistake cost the Gators the road win, but the timing of the call magnified its importance.
"If it happened in the first quarter, you wouldn't be talking to me tonight," Gaston said.