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The SEC is looking at adding an 8th official due to offensive tempo
The breakneck pace of college football has more than just defensive coordinators wondering how to adjust. According to AL.com, the SEC officiating offices have explored adding an eighth official to the normal seven man crews.
Auburn was the first to use the experimental eight man officiating crew during their spring game. The extra official lines up in the offensive backfield, opposite of the referee and his main responsibility is to spot the ball and "get out of the way of the offense if there are no substitutions", the article points out.
Normally the umpire is the one to spot the ball, but with the tempo getting faster and faster, the eight man crew would allow the umpire to focus on counting players and spotting holds, while the eighth man focuses on solely spotting the ball and clearing out.
SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said that the first trial went really well.
"It really worked pretty well. I don't think we're ready to go there just yet but we're testing it. Some of the coaches said, well, so this eighth official is a way we can go even faster. Really, my answer was, no, the eighth official is not to help you go faster. It's to help us be more consistent, do our job and allow the umpire and referee do their jobs more effectively."
While the extra man seems to give an advantage to offensive coaches over defensive coaches, Shaw is more focused on keeping things consistent from crew to crew. Hugh Freeze points out in the article that their bowl game was officiated by a Big 12 crew, who was much better acclimated to the type of tempo that the Rebels ran, and Freeze noticed a significant difference.
"Our goal is not to help the offense or help the defense. It's really to stay within the rule, keep the pace consistent throughout the game. The rule says, when the ball is ready, they can snap it."
With SEC offenses like Texas A&M, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Auburn wanting to push the pace come fall, an eighth official would be a much appreciated addition by the offensive staffs. It likely won't happen this fall, but it will be interesting to see how the game changes if an eighth official is added to the crew.