Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Croome backs up Orgeron: Alabama gets calls

The call that was reversed on the field in the Alabama-Ole Miss game on Saturday is not done causing controversy. This Mobile Press-Register piece reports that despite the SEC official position that the reversal was correct, Orgeron, his AD Pete Boone still vehemently disagree. That isn't surprising.

What is surprising is this comment in the same piece attributed to Sylvester Croome, the Mississippi State coach:

Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said Monday the more successful programs get gets a lot of calls in their favor. Croom, a former Alabama center and assistant coach, said he noticed it while playing for the Tide and he has noticed it even more while coaching against his alma mater.
Ouch. Croome is essentially accusing officials of favoring Alabama on the field, as well as the other successful programs in the SEC.

This is actually a disturbing accusation, coming as it does from the coach of an avowed foe of Ole Miss, and a former player at Alabama. I want to clarify a couple of things before I go on. One, I'm not accusing Alabama, or any other SEC team of wrongdoing or misbehavior or any of that. The officials made the call, and Alabama had nothing to do with the review. It was a close call, no question, but in this writer's opinion, the SEC officials erred. There is no clear and convincing video evidence either a) that the player was not forced out of bounds, or b) that even if there were, the Ole Miss player actually touched the ball first. There is some evidence of both, but certainly it is not indisputable or even strong enough to be considered "clear and convincing". Therefore, the call on the field should have stood up.

Bottom line -- The SEC is circling the wagons around officials who are not applying the proper standard for review, and are winging it based on their judgment. That conflicts with the way that video review is supposed to work. I have no problem with changing the standards for review, they just shouldn't do it situationally, as appears to be the case here.

Another disturbing thing is that this same replay official has evidently been involved in other controversial plays. Not only that, but according to the same piece, the Ole Miss radio analyst virtually called this shot before the game even started. The final annoying fact in all this is that the replay official involved is not being made available to answer press questions (see the Press-Register piece above).

But even more insidious is Croome's suggestion that SEC officials favor the better teams in the league. That is worrisome, and given the fact that this claim flies in the face of Croome's presumed loyalties, concerns me more than a one-off screw-up. Unfortunately, officiating in the college world is as opaque as the Iranian government, and they appear just as likely to defend the indefensible. That needs to change. The more opaque and insular the officials make their review processes, the more likely you are to wind up with this.

3 comments:

Philip, the Equal Opportunity Cynic said...

"Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said Monday the more successful programs get gets a lot of calls in their favor."

I really wasn't even aware this point was particularly controversial. People see what they expect to see. I'm far more bothered by some of the blatant calls then by the borderline judgments. I guess my assumption is that every human arbiter who knows the reputations of the two teams involved will find it impossible not to take that info into account.

Still, kudos to Croom for having the courage to state it.

Seth said...

Nice article.

BestofSEC said...

Philip: It isn't controversial, I suppose, but it aught to be. Is it that there is bias in favor of Bama? Well, maybe not, but I think the SEC officials aught to have this discussion.

The opaque and mysterious way that officiating is handled in college athletics is more of the problem than anything. There should be more transparency and less circling of the wagons.

Seth: Thanks.