Football Rules Experiment is Good, But...

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about football, basketball and other topics.

Rambling around on a Monday…

A lot of people are celebrating the Southeastern Conference's decision to experiment with instant replay next football season, and there are some good things about it.

But it's not going to solve all or even most of the problems associated with SEC officiating.

It's not going to affect the ridiculously inconsistent way holding is called, which, in my opinion, is the biggest problem with SEC officiating. It's not going to affect any judgment call, and good judgment is what SEC officials are most often lacking. What it will do is, like in the NFL, make it possible for blatantly bad calls on fumbles, pass receptions, first downs and touchdowns to be reviewed.

Unfortunately, an official ignoring pass interference, calling or not calling holding at a critical time and any number of other judgment calls can have just as much impact on the outcome of a game as the calls that will be subject of instant replay.

It's a step in the right direction, but better-trained, more competent officials is the only step that will really matter.

Speaking of officials, I saw one of the more bizarre scenes I have ever witnessed Friday night at the SEC women's basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C. After an apparent Alabama three-pointer tied the game at 60 with five seconds left, LSU's Temeka Johnson raced downcourt and hit a layup, clearly after time expired.

When the officials went to the TV monitor at the scorer's table, those of us on press row thought the officials were checking to make sure the shot did, in fact, come after the buzzer. We were wrong. They were looking at the 3-point shot.

Eventually, they decided it was a two-point shot, put the five seconds back on the clock and gave the ball to LSU. LSU won 60-59.

I asked everyone I could about what rule the officials invoked. No one seemed to know. The officials said they were just getting it right, but I've never in all my years seen time put back on the clock in that fashion. If you can go back five seconds, why not five minutes?

I'll give retiring Alabama coach Rick Moody credit. He handled the whole situation with class, probably more than I would have in his position...

Auburn's men's basketball team finished its regular season with a stirring victory over Arkansas on Saturday. It's been a season first-year coach Jeff Lebo surely will never forget.

Jeff Lebo has faced a major challenge in his first season as coach of the Tigers.

It's not really surprising that Lebo's first team, devoid of height and woefully short on talent, was blown out several times. What is surprising is that the Tigers won four SEC games.

It tells me all I need to know about Lebo that, after losing to Mississippi State by 36 and Arkansas by 37 on the road, he beat both by double-figure scores at home. The guy can coach. Give him time and players and he'll be something special…

The popular opinion among women's basketball folks seems to be that Auburn is going to squeeze into the NCAA Tournament field.

The Tigers finished the regular season 16-13 overall and 6-8 in the SEC, but five of their losses came to teams currently ranked in the top five--two to Tennessee, two to LSU and one to Duke.

Nell Fortner had more weapons on her first Auburn team than Lebo did, but she also made it clear that better days are ahead. The Tigers were ever so close to have a really big season…

I truly hate what happened to Eugene Harris and Stacy Danley. Harris has been a friend of mine since he arrived at Auburn. He is a good man and a class act in every way, one of my favorites. I'm not sure, if he had it to do over, Cliff Ellis would make the change on his staff that resulted in Harris moving into administration and Mike Wilson being hired. That certainly did not turn out to be what was best for Auburn's basketball program. I've known Danley since he played. He, too, is a good man who loves Auburn.

However, to claim racism played a role in Jay Jacobs' decisions just doesn't make sense. Nobody seems concerned about Marvin Julich, another good man, who lost his job at the same time. I'm concerned about them all. Any decision Jacobs or any other athletic director makes is fair game for criticism, but for the legislative black caucus and others to claim racism with no evidence to support those claims is damaging, not only to Auburn, but to the cause of those who truly are victims of racism.

Until next time…

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