Tennessean: Criticizing SEC officials is easy call for some

11:26 AM, Nov 9, 2009   |    comments
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Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean

For the record, the area surrounding the Southeastern Conference headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., is mainly composed of brick and concrete - not much room for grassy knolls.

The adjacent parking garage is not equipped with a heliport - no place for black helicopters.

And the last I checked, Oliver Stone is not on the payroll as a consultant.

But who is interested in harsh reality when there is so much delicious conjecture to fuel theories of conspiracy? In our smoke-and-mirrors world, SEC refs are supposedly doing whatever is necessary to keep Florida and Alabama undefeated and on track for a showdown in the SEC Championship game.

The theory holds that SEC powers-that-be want to keep the records of both teams spotless until Dec. 5, thus assuring that the winner plays for the national championship and the loser remains ranked high enough in the BCS standings to lock down a spot in one of the other major bowls.

Having two teams in BCS bowls would assure the conference of a financial windfall. And you know how the SEC feels about big money.

The latest eyebrow-raiser came in the fourth quarter of the Alabama-LSU game on Saturday when a possible - dare I say apparent - interception by Tigers defensive back Patrick Peterson was ruled an incomplete pass.

On the play in question, Peterson stepped in front of Alabama receiver Julio Jones and seemed to grab the ball with his left foot clearly inbounds. It was difficult to tell if Peterson's right foot touched inbounds.

But officials ruled that Peterson did not have possession when the first foot came down. They said his right foot hit the chalk.

And the on-field call was confirmed by replay.

Just wondering: Exactly what equipment is in the replay booth? The system failed in the first quarter of that game. Was the fallback system an 18-inch black-and-white with aluminum foil on the rabbit ears?

After the game, LSU Coach Les Miles adopted a less-is-more approach. Mindful that Florida's Urban Meyer was $30,000 lighter for last week's critique of officials, he trod carefully around the issue.

"I believe the officials work hard and make as good a quality of a call as they can," Miles said. "The difficult issue that I have is telling my team. That's the issue. The issue is telling Patrick Peterson, who, in his mind, knows it was an interception.

"If it's the right call, it's easy. But that's the difficult issue."

Now let's be clear: Even if the play in question had been ruled an interception, much work remained for LSU. The ball would have been at the Tigers' 31-yard line, with LSU down by six points with 5:54 to play. There's no guarantee backup quarterback Jarrett Lee would have made any significant headway against Alabama's seek-and-destroy defense.

Mind you, LSU managed a grand total of 9 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.

But given the sorry state of officiating in the SEC and the conference office's defensive, see-no-evil stance, that won't keep the Grassy Knollers from crying foul.

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