Posted: Monday November 7, 2005 12:11PM; Updated: Monday November 7, 2005 12:13PM
For a story about instant replay earlier this season, the SEC's supervisor of officials told SI that he had gone back and looked at every call his officials made or didn't make in 2004 and concluded that they had missed a grand total of seven. Even if that bold claim is, in fact, true, it only shows how far the quality of officiating in that conference has fallen in 12 months.
Disclaimer: I went to Vanderbilt and worked there for a year. Having said that, the last two SEC games I've watched start-to-finish were the Vandy-Georgia game and last Saturday's Vandy-Florida game. As much as I'd like to rant about the obscene excessive celebration penalty called on Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett against the Gators that kept the Commodores from attempting a potential game-winning two-point conversion in regulation, that would be sour grapes, because it's a judgment call. (Though it was a shockingly poor call, bad not only because there was nothing excessive about it, but because it was a case of an official taking away the players right to decide the game.) No, there are two other decisions the officials (and their supervisor) need to be called out on -- two blown calls. The zebras let a Georgia touchdown reception stand though the replays (which were consulted) clearly showed the ball hitting the ground. And they didn't look at a Chris Leak touchdown run (on fourth down) on which he appeared to be shy of the goal line when his knee hit the ground.
I understand officials will, without the benefit of hindsight and the time to assess all the relevant factors, miss calls. My beef is with the replay official in the first case, and with the replay system in the second. Why in the name of Helen Keller would you have someone in the booth if they can't see a football clearly hitting the ground? And why would you institute a system that stops a game for two minutes to review a six-yard completion near midfield but lets a disputed score pass without so much as a gander. (And don't give me that BS about how every call is looked at by the replay official in the booth, which is the party line. If the eye in the sky had anything remotely approaching 20/20 vision and had given the Leak play even a cursory glance, he would have at least said, "Hmmm. That's worth another look.")
As it is, the replay system makes no sense. Most conferences use a system in which the booth official calls down to the field when he decides a play needs to be reviewed. Perhaps the answer is giving coaches the power to challenge calls, which they enjoy in only one conference (Mountain West), or to allow the referee to ask for help. The system in place now applies reviews so unevenly and haphazardly that the game would be better off without it. Upon further review, it ain't working