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UK’s Benton Avoids Suspension; SEC Needs To Be More Consistent

University of Kentucky safety Mikie Benton has avoided a suspension for what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit leveled against Florida tight end Jordan Reed on Saturday.  As the league usually doles out its punishments on Monday, we sent a note to SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom about the matter Monday afternoon.  We requested an explanation of why Benton’s hit — unlike similar hits from Ole Miss’ Trae Elston and South Carolina’s DJ Swearinger — didn’t earn the player a week on the bench.

Late yesterday afternoon, Bloom was kind enough to send along this official statement:


“At the 1:09 mark of the 2nd quarter, Florida’s Jordan Reed catches a pass at the Kentucky 34-yard line and the ensuing tackle by UK defensive back Mikie Benton draws a 15-yard penalty for initiating contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless player with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.   In a required video review by the conference (NCAA Rule 9-6-2), it was determined the officials call on the field was correct, and this was a Targeting foul with contact above the shoulders and the penalty was properly enforced.  Based on the fact that the major impact of the blow was initially to the shoulder area of the receiver, this act does not warrant additional actions from the conference office.”


Now let’s go to the video tape:


Florida's Jordan Reed makes the great catch and loses his helmet


So does the league’s response make sense?  Technically, it appears so…















Benton is clearly targeting Reed high in the photo above.  But…















When contact is made, it’s made with Benton’s facemask and the crown of his helmet leading into Reed’s neck and shoulder area.  So no, this was not a crown-of-the-helmet hit on another player’s helmet.  But it could have been.  Easily.

If the powers-that-be in the SEC and college football want to truly protect players from injuries — and themselves from potential lawsuits — they need to change the culture, so to speak.  In suspending Carolina’s Swearinger for a head-to-head hit on a UAB receiver, the SEC cited the hit as “a flagrant and dangerous act.”  Fine, we agree.

But in the case of Benton, Reed’s head moved to the left and not to the right.  Had Reed simply moved a few inches in the other direction, then Benton’s helmet would have cracked him dead-on.  And, most likely, Benton would have been handed a sit-down notice from Mike Slive and the league office.  Instead, he walks.

Look, this isn’t about Benton.  It’s about consistency.  Many fans suggested that the SEC wouldn’t suspend a player from a good team when Ole Miss’ Elston was benched.  The next week a South Carolina starter was suspended and we heard from a few: “Well, it’s still not someone from Alabama or LSU.”  (Tell that to Les Miles.)  Conspiracy theorists will always believe that the league office takes care of some schools and not others (which is rather ridiculous since the league office works for all 14 schools and it’s doubtful that 13 of them would happily bow before another).

We ourselves have stated that these calls are very subjective.  What I see as “a flagrant and dangerous act” might differ from what you see as “a flagrant and dangerous act.”  Ditto the folks in the SEC office.  This can all be rectified rather simply, however.

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Wow Evening Headlines 9/25/2012

Kentucky safety Mikie Benton will not be suspended for hit in Florida game
Steve Spurrier on Kentucky: “I think we are better than them.”
LSU-TCU to open next season at Cowboys Stadium
Georgia leads the nation with 35 offensive plays of 20 yards or more
Dan Mullen on 4-0 Mississippi State: “The opportunity could be there for championships.”
Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze on this week’s foe, Alabama: “They’re the gold standard in football right now.
Rebel QB Bo Wallace is “optimistic” he’ll be able to play with a shoulder injury
Florida guard Kenny Boynton tells ESPN that Tennessee will be the “toughest (team) to go against” this hoops season
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