SEC officials have come under fire several times this season, mostly for their treatment of Alabama’s opponents.
The first major example came late in LSU’s win against Mississippi State, when star Tigers linebacker Devin White was ejected for a questionable targeting call. His ejection extended to the first half of LSU’s next game, which was against the Crimson Tide, sparking a wave of outcry and even billboards criticizing SEC officials.
Then came last week’s Alabama-Mississippi State game, in which officials did not review an apparent Crimson Tide fumble and later wiped out a Bulldogs touchdown with a touchy penalty. Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead remained mostly neutral on the controversial calls that hurt his team, though questions persist about the SEC’s handling of these rulings.
Several SEC coaches were asked about the conference’s officiating during Wednesday’s SEC Coaches Teleconference. Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason fielded the most direct question on the topic when he was asked if he believes officiating is fair in the SEC.
“I do,” Mason said. “You have to make sure guys have a chance to win it between the white lines. It’s not about them. They do a good job of letting that happen. They are not the show, the game is the show, the players are the show. They let the show go on.”
Later in the teleconference, a reporter asked Kentucky coach Mark Stoops if he thinks the best teams get preferential treatment from referees.
“I think it’s human nature to feel that way, and some of it is because great teams can overcome those things,” Stoops said. “Calls will always go against you; the officials will never be perfect. When you know a call can swing a game, it’s human nature to think that. … That’s natural, and you have to overcome that. It’s difficult, just speaking in general.”
Florida coach Dan Mullen addressed a broader officiating issue in response to a question about how the SEC resolves questionable calls.
“I’ve never had a bad call against us,” Mullen said. “No, being in the league a long time, since (head of SEC officials) Steve Shaw took over — it’s frustrating, but I make bad calls, too. The officials do, and they get criticized. When we call Steve after sending in plays, you know it’s been addressed on their end. They grade the film, they send the grades to the officials, they send out the film on the good and bad calls from the games.
“They are correcting the film just like we are. … I feel confident under Steve that the job is being done to the best of their ability. They are coaching the officials to get them better, just like we do the players.”
Mullen said that he still harbors “resentment to this day” for a few calls, but he stressed that coaches must get over them when they occur in games.
Overall, it’s not surprising to see coaches hesitate to call out the league office. But it seems like SEC officiating is an issue that won’t go away anytime soon.