Polk To Miss Wednesday Game At USM

It wasn't his actions, it was the words that will prevent Coach Ron Polk from being with Mississippi State this evening when the Diamond Dogs take on Southern Mississippi in a 6:30 game at Pete Taylor Park.

Polk will serve a one-game suspension for comments made after Mississippi State's 13-6 loss to the Golden Eagles. The decision was confirmed by the MSU athletic department mid-day Wednesday.

In their official announcement, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said "Coach Polk has violated the Southeastern Conference Sportsmanship Policy and Code of Ethics. SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 clearly states that the coaches, players and support personnel shall refrain from public criticism of officials."

In the seventh inning of the Tuesday night game Polk was ejected for arguing a call by first base umpire Joseph Smith. Upon ejection he continued to protest to both the first base umpire and the crew chief, and eventually the MSU coach was forced from the field by game management and campus security.

But these actions did not warrant any disciplinary action. Instead it was what Polk said on his post-game radio show, and to a handful of media afterwards, that violated the Southeastern Conference's strict regulations regarding commenting on officiating.

After the game, Polk gave the following recorded comments both on-the-air and on-the-record. He began his post-game radio show as follows:

"All the (USM) coaches came up to me, one before the game was over, and down in leftfield. Corky (USM head coach Palmer) was so apologetic, he was so embarrassed by his athletic department sicking cops on an argument.

"And I almost got thrown in jail. Because that lady policeman stuck her face in my face telling me 'get off the field.' I told her 'get off the field.' She said 'you want to go to jail?' I said 'put the cuffs on, let's go.' Some minimum-wage flunky athletic administrator, probably security, said let's get the guy off the field, so three policemen come on the field. That's uncalled-for. And it's embarrassing to Southern Miss, they have a good athletic department and program. But to have policemen jumping on the field in an argument..."

"I was about to walk away after another 15 seconds, but you get your peace in and you get thrown out of the ball game. Especially when you have an incompetent umpire."

Polk then commmented on an earlier incident in the contest, which was critical to the first inning. An Eagle ground ball hit the third base umpire, who was positioned behind the pitcher with two runners on base. It caromed through the middle and a runner scored. "I'm not mad at the umpire for getting hit, because it was a well-hit ball," Polk said. "It hit off his shoulder and just ricocheted high over second base. Then they missed the interpretation. It's a dead ball, the batter goes to first and everybody who is forced to advance can advance, they score one run. By the time I figured it out the next batter (was up), it was too late to argue. Then I got in an argument with the umpire at third, I said how can you have three umpires out here and here's a coach, I know what the interpretation is and not an umpire knew."

Polk then returned to the overall issue with the words that crossed the SEC's line, even in a game not on a league field with league umpires. "But again, umpires are umpires. The guy at first (Smith) was just incompetent. He's a high school umpire I'm sure, stuck in this ball game. He was scared to death. The second-largest crowd ever here, 4,700, and he just was hyperventilating out there."

State coaches had issues with Smith all evening regarding a series of close calls at the bag that went against MSU. In fact an inning after Polk was ejected Smith, having called a 3-6-1 double-play with MSU batting and running, was over-ruled by the homeplate umpire on the out at first base. But it was his 'out' call on MSU runner Jeffrey Rea in the top of the seventh that created the most controversy, and Polk's ejection. First base Coach Tommy Raffo, who rarely shows any on-field emotion, was first upset by the out call, which brought Polk running from the third base box. Polk was allowed to argue with Smith alone until the umpire thumbed him; then the crew chief intervened, but Polk kept pursing Smith. After a couple of minutes USM assistant director for game management Jareel Combest came out from a gate on the first-base side, beyond the MSU dugout. He was followed by a campus security officer, and the confrontation escalated. Later, three sheriffs entered the field from the third base side and walked across the field. They didn't appear to participate directly but were right among the group as Polk was forced towards the first base side gate.

After being forced outside the gate, Polk was finally able to get back inside to get his briefcase. But he left the MSU dugout, crossed the field behind home plate, stopped by the third-base box to speak with Palmer, then spent the rest of the evening in the batting cage outside leftfield. And afterwards he made the comments above, as well as others to print media, which broke the rules on commenting about officiating.

This was Polk's third ejection of 2006. He was tossed from a home game with Tennesse as well as a road game at Auburn. In that latter event, Polk also said on his radio show that an umpire--in this case the home plate ump--was 'incompetent.' No disciplinary action resulted nor was any reprimand from the SEC reported.

The Wednesday suspension will have no effect on the weekend series at South Carolina. For tonight, Raffo and pitching coach Russ McNickle will be in charge.

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