Controversial officiating calls have always existed, but, thanks to the proliferation of picture-perfect video and the Pandora’s box that is instant replay, they’ve never been dissected to the level they are today. And, thanks to the money involved, the stakes have never been higher than they are today.
As such, the SEC is adapting.
According to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated, the SEC is considering adopting a couple NFL techniques to address controversial calls or non-calls: assigning a former referee to work SEC broadcasts, and launching a Twitter account to address certain plays directly.
“In #SEAvsDAL, @dallascowboys WR Amari Cooper controls the ball, gets two feet down, and then takes an additional step. The process of the catch is over at that point, so the ruling of a catch is confirmed.” – AL pic.twitter.com/1vxPfvMN44
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) January 6, 2019
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) December 28, 2018
The league has also been in discussion with its TV partners to add an officiating analyst to its broadcast booths.
ESPN employs former Big Ten ref Bill LeMonnier and Dave Cutaia, a former Pac-12 head of officials, as its rules analysts, and CBS has former NFL referee Gene Steratore in its studio, so this could mean the league wants someone standing next to the play-by-play and color commentators in the booth, like how Mike Pereira travels with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for FOX’s top NFL games.
The catalyst for such a move appears to be the final game of the SEC’s 2018 regular season — Texas A&M’s seven-overtime win over LSU, a game that swung on multiple controversial calls or non-calls.
“I’m not sure we can live in a ‘no comment’ world anymore,” SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw told SI. “If you believe the social media view, that was the worst officiated game in the history of SEC football. I’m going to tell you, that crew worked a hell of a game.”
Silicon Valley has yet to develop the prototype for a perfect football-officiating robot, and the players aren’t getting any slower. As such, it’s good the SEC is being proactive about an issue that isn’t going away.