Rue's Rant on College Sports in Alabama

November 10, 2009 2:27 PM

Do SEC refs favor Alabama and Florida?

disputed interception.jpg

Patrick Peterson's apparent interception was ruled an incomplete pass and upheld upon review late in the fourth quarter of LSU's 24-15 loss to Alabama. (Photo by Mark Almond/Birmingham News)


I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I must admit while I was waiting to see if the replay official would rule that LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson had indeed intercepted a pass on the sideline late in the fourth quarter against Alabama instead of upholding the incomplete call of the officials on the field, I told my wife, who was watching the game with me, that the incomplete call would stand.


And I said the reason it would stand is because the Southeastern Conference office had deemed that Alabama and Florida must remain undefeated going into the SEC Championship Game, so that an SEC team would have a chance to win the national championship for a fourth consecutive season.


I was joking, but after watching a few calls go Florida's way in wins over Mississippi State and Arkansas - the latter resulting in the suspension of the officiating team from the Arkansas-Florida game - it does seem that way.


Following the review of Peterson's interception, the incomplete call was upheld. Alabama then drove for a clinching field goal in a 24-15 Tide victory that clinched the SEC West title and a berth in the SEC Championship game.


It's not like Alabama and Florida need any help from the refs. They are clearly the two best teams in the SEC and perhaps the nation.

Then again, the officiating in the SEC this season has created one controversy after another, such as that celebration penalty against Georgia receiver A.J. Green that helped give LSU field position to score a late touchdown and beat the Bulldogs 20-13. Two days after that game, the SEC said Green should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.


Now, the coaches have been told by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive to muzzle their criticisms of officiating or face fines and/or suspensions.


Florida coach Urban Meyer was the first to feel the sting of the new edict. He was slapped with a $30,000 fine for comments relating to a late hit against Gators quarterback Tim Tebow that wasn't called in the Florida-Georgia game.


Surprisingly, Alabama head coach Nick Saban came to the officials' defense on Monday during his weekly media conference.


"I mean, can somebody stand up and fight for these guys and what they do for the game - and probably get less for it than anybody?" Saban said. "If I was an official, and I was making what I made officiating because I love the game and I love doing it, and I was getting criticized by the media - including our announcers on TV - like these guys are getting criticized, I'd step back and say, 'I think I'll go to the lake this weekend. You can have this.' That's what I'd do."


As for the non-interception call with Peterson, Saban said, "If it was an interception, that doesn't mean they win the game."


No, it doesn't mean LSU wins the game, but it would have given the Tigers one more opportunity to win the game. And because that opportunity was denied, it does seems as if when the game involves Florida and Alabama this season the close calls will go the way of the Gators and Tide.


Which brings to mind this question: Who gets the close calls when they meet in the SEC Championship Game?



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