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SEC Officials To Test Wireless Communications In 2012

Get ready for a new look at some SEC football games this fall — refs wearing small mics and earpieces.  The NCAA football rules committee has approved a waiver that will allow the SEC to test wireless communications technology during some league games.

SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw told The Birmingham News:


“We see great promise in this.  One of the questions is could this be a distraction to the crew?  We’re going to learn if it is.  If it’s a distraction, we’re not going to use it.  My goal is to have a better product of officiating on the field, and I think this is a tool that will help us get there.”


The upsides: Officials may have an easier time explaining penalties to coaches without huddling.  Ditto the ability to enforce penalties without huddling.  With less on-field gatherings, the game could move just a wee bit quicker.

Potential downsides: Raucous SEC stadiums could become too loud for officials to even hear what’s being said into their earpieces.  According to former SEC head of officials and current national supervisor of officials, Rogers Redding, “One of the challenges would be a big part of officiating is concentration, and you wouldn’t want a lot of chit-chat.”

The league has nine officiating crews and two of those units will be outfitted with the earpieces and tiny mics on their collars.  There will be no Broadway-style mics.

For those wondering, the SEC also said that officials in the instant replay booth will be able to hear the conversation on the field, but they will not be able to chime in.  According to Shaw, “We’d never have a situation where the replay guy looked at pass interference and said, ‘You need to pick up that flag.”

Will the new technology work?  Not enough to make many, many, many SEC fans stop complaining about the league’s officials.  That’s just part of fandom.  And there’s not a conference out there whose fans don’t honestly believe they have the worst refs in the world.

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UK’s Phillips Says There’s Nothing Illegal About UF’s Punt Block Tactics; Head Of Officials Agrees

Earlier this week, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips made the following comment about Florida’s penchant for blocking punts:

“We’ve got receivers and DBs on our punt team to try and get that speed on the field.  They’ve got big guys pulling this guy that way, and this guy that way and a little fast guy with world-class speed comes up the middle to block it.”

By the time Phillips’ comments hit the internet, he was accusing Florida of doing something illegal.  Phillips said during yesterday’s teleconference that he’d done no such thing:

“Nothing illegal with that.  Nothing.  They do a great job and within the rules.  Everybody does it.  We try to do it also, so it’s nothing illegal.  I wasn’t saying that it’s anything illegal.  I was saying that do a great job of it.”

He stopped short of saying: “Please don’t whip the heck out of my team because I made you mad, Will Muschamp.  Please.” 

But here’s the thing, Phillips did seem to be suggesting in his earlier comments that UF uses a technique officials refer to as a “pull and shoot.”  And a pull and shoot maneuver is indeed illegal.

But SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw told The Florida Times-Union that he saw nothing wrong with Florida’s punt block tactics during the Gators’ game with Tennessee last week (in which UF did block a punt):

“We reviewed all of them and there’s nothing on any of those plays that rises to the level of a pull and shoot.  There’s always going to be hand-grabbing and shoving but nothing to the level of a pull and shoot.”

Punt blocks and inflammatory comments aside, Phillips had better start winning some games at UK or it’s his head coaching career that might be pulled and shot.

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If The New Celebration Rule Bites Your Team This Weekend… Blame The Coaches, Not The Refs

New SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw spoke to the quarterback club in Montgomery, Alabama this week and he had one message to share regarding college football’s stiffer celebration penalty — Don’t blame us:

“… Keep in mind, it is not the officials doing this.  It is the coaches.  Not one official is on the rules committee.  The rules are made by the coaches.  This is what they agreed on and how they want the game run.  We are trying to implement the rule they made.”

Sound like a guy who wants officials to have to make more judgment calls?

Shaw was attempting to explain the circumstances that would call for points to be taken off the board due to a player’s on-field celebration.  Basically, if a player celebrates on the field of play prior to scoring, that’s a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the celebration.  Bye bye, points.

Only players on the field of play and involved in the play can draw such a penalty.  So if someone from the sideline rushes onto the field to celebrate, that’s still just a 15-yard dead-ball foul.

But the person doing the celebrating can be any of the 22 players taking part in a play… not just the ball-carrier:

“Say a quarterback throws a long touchdown pass and during the play he runs to midfield and does the throat-slash gesture to the opposing team.  The ball would be returned to midfield and the 15 yards marked off from there.  The touchdown wouldn’t count.”

(Think Shaw had any specific quarterback in mind with that throat slash example?)

So if your team see’s a 50-yard TD bomb turned into a 2nd-&-25 from its own 35 tomorrow, remember who’s to blame — the guy celebrating and the coaches who voted for this ridiculous rule change.  Not the NCAA and not the game officials. 

Literally… the coaches asked for it.

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Shaw Wants SEC Officials To Be The Best

With Rogers Redding getting a promotion to the NCAA level, Steve Shaw will be stepping into the office of the SEC’s coordinator of officials.  The league’s new top cop is already setting some lofty goals:

“I think my desire is really to take my on-field experiences and the talent within our officiating staff and really make these guys the best they can be.  I’m not interested in us just being good; I was us to be absolutely the best we can be on every play, and that’s our goal.”

And that’s a darn good goal.  But even if he and the league’s officials hit that mark, it won’t matter to the public.

First, officials are human and they’re going to make mistakes just like coaches and players.  In fact, even replay officials might view a shot differently than the way you or I might view the very same video clip.  Mistakes — and if you don’t think they’re made in every sport look up the end of the Pirates/Braves game from Tuesday — give angry fans “proof” that a league’s officials are horrible.  Just check an ACC or Pac-12 messageboard one Sunday and you’ll find that their fans believe they have the worst refs in the world.  It’s a fact of life.

Second, every call made this year in an SEC game will be loved by one team’s fans and hated by the other’s.  Ever sit in the stands and count how many times you hear the home fans scream about the other team’s infractions?  Ever hear those same fans scream that their team should be flagged?  Ever?  Once?

Welcome to the Kobayashi Maru, Mr. Shaw… you’ve stepped into the ultimate no-win scenario.

UPDATE — We’ve been asked to post a bio of Shaw.  We ran more info on the man when he was hired half a year ago, but here’s the requested bio.

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Day Two Wrap From Hoover

The good folks in the SEC PR department have put together a blow-by-blow of today’s main speakers.  It’s basically a listing of who said what — sort of what we do with direct quotes in real time — all bunched together in one short summary.

Their briefing also includes information from Steve Shaw, the SEC’s new coordinator of officials, who spoke of rule changes this morning.

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SEC Headlines – 7/21/11 Part Three

1.  The NCAA has posted Mike Slive’s proposal for change on its website.

2.  Slive has too much to do to think about retiring.  (Which is why he’s in talks to extend his contract which ends next July.)

3.  SEC Media Days has outgrown Birmingham… according to Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News.

4.  Breaking down the new rules in college football, new SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw explained the new unsportsmanlike conduct penalty this morning.

5.  Steve Spurrier is getting his swagger back.

6.  Ole Miss will play its first game ever in the Pacific time zone this year (against Fresno State).

7.  Here are some of the best quotes from Day One of Media Days.

8.  There are a lot of reasons the SEC is so much better than anyone else in football.

9.  Auburn has determined that rolling the oaks at Toomer’s Corner won’t do harm to the trees.

10.  LSU will wear a set of Nike Pro Combat uniforms against Auburn this year.  (Come on, Nike, we’re waiting for our invite to this year’s unveiling in New York.)

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SEC Headlines – 7/19/11 Part Two

1.  Steve Shaw — the SEC’s new coordinator of officials — spoke with The Birmingham News about the challenges of his new job.

2.  Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach will be pimping his controversial new book at SEC Media Days.

3.  Bobby Petrino isn’t lowering his expectations because of Arkansas’ inexperienced offensive line.

4.  Former Auburn Heisman-winner Pat Sullivan will bring his Samford team to The Plains this year.

5.  A Florida luncheon that’s been held for 40 years is being cancelled because Will Muschamp wants to focus on football.

6.  Muschamp has brought some Texas-style recruiting to the Sunshine State (meaning: more early commitments).

7.  The Gainesville Sun says Alabama’s Trent Richardson is the SEC’s best player…

8.  And this fall’s Alabama-LSU game will be the league’s top matchup.

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