Work in Sports
Blown call costs refs
SEC suspends top officials after Ga.-Ga. Tech snafu
Posted: Wednesday December 01, 1999 10:59 AM
ATLANTA (AP) -- The SEC officiating crew that missed a crucial call in the Georgia-Georgia Tech game has been suspended by the conference.
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 Saturday. Television replays showed that the ball popped out after Sanks hit the ground.
The score was tied 48-48 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 the SEC title game between Florida and Alabama. Several of the officials involved also will lose their postseason assignments. SEC officials have not said if the men could be fired.
Saturday's 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 on Sunday, Bobby Gaston, the SEC supervisor of football officials, told The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution that the officials had been wrong.
Suspending officials, particularly an entire crew, is unusual. Earlier this season, the ACC suspended a crew for one game for incorrectly marking off the yardage on a penalty and for allowing the 25-second clock to expire without calling a penalty.
"I think it best not to respond," Ford said after the suspension.
While he had defended the call after the game, Ford said Monday he agreed that Williams missed the call.
"I have seen the game and play since then, and at full-speed it's close," he 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."
The TimesDaily newspaper 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 athletic director Vince Dooley.
"The conference office will not comment on that issue, or any other issue related to personel decisions," Kramer told the newspaper in a phone call to his Birmingham home Tuesday night.