SEC Officials Keep Eye On Alabama-Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE -- Besides ESPN announcers Brad Nessler, Rick Majerus and Heather Cox, Tuesday's Alabama-Arkansas basketball game also brought out Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive and SEC Coordinator of Officials John Guthrie.

"We try to get to each campus for at least one SEC game," Guthrie said. "Tonight worked out well, because this is the only SEC game being played."

Guthrie noted that SEC officials for each game are chosen from "pods," with a veteran usually serving as "crew chief."

Tuesday night there were actually two crew-chief types working the game -- John Clougherty and Ted Valentine -- along with Joe Lindsay.

"John and Ted have both worked NCAA Final Four games, and Joe has actually worked a third-round NCAA Tournament game, even though he's just 35 years old," Guthrie said.

Guthrie said SEC basketball officials tend to be younger and more athletic than in past years (and younger than SEC football officials).

"We want to let you play aggressively but legally," Guthrie said. "We like blocked shots. That's why when it's 'all ball,' you rarely see a foul called in this league."

Guthrie believes the way SEC games are called helps the teams as they move toward postseason.

"Right now the league is here," Guthrie said, raising his forearm slightly. "By the end of the season it will be way up here. It will be very competitive. As you can see tonight, Alabama is a heck of a team, and so is Arkansas."

Guthrie seemed particularly impressed by a change-of-pace drive by Hogs guard Ron Brewer during the first half, on which Brewer came all the way from midcourt to score.

"You can't guard that," Guthrie said.

Guthrie pointed out that 31 officials have gone though the SEC to work in the NBA, including four from last season.

"We'll lose some more this year, but we have a good supply coming up," Guthrie said.

Jamie Jones III, a former Fayetteville High and University of Arkansas football lineman, has been an SEC official for years, but doesn't work UA games except in preseason.

"Jamie is retiring after this year," Guthrie said. "He will be a roving instructor for us, and he's also an observer for NBA officials in Memphis. Jamie is a wonderful young man. We think the world of him. His dad was a student minister in Fayetteville."

When Clougherty called a foul on Arkansas' Olu Famutimi which sent Alabama's Kennedy Winston to the free throw line with 9.8 seconds left Tuesday night, fans booed loudly but both Nessler and Majerus agreed with Clougherty's call when ESPN showed a replay.

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried is now 200-102 as a head coach, including 132-78 with the Crimson Tide. He was 68-24 at Murray State.

While Gottfried advanced in one category, he declined in another --Alabama career scoring.

As a shooting guard on Alabama Sweet 16 teams in 1985, '86 and '87, Gottfried scored 1,056 points. He ranked 34th in Tide career scoring until Earnest Shelton passed him on Tuesday night.

Shelton entered the Arkansas game with 1,055 points and scored a team-high 18 to move past Gottfried with 1,073 points.

Alabama is idle until next Tuesday, when it will play again on ESPN, at home against No. 11 Mississippi State.

Nessler, Majerus and Cox will again handle the announcing duties for ESPN in that game.

Former UA players spotted at Tuesday's game included Clint McDaniel and John Engskov of Arkansas' 1994 national championship team, and Brandon Davis, who finished his eligibility in 2001.

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