Slive, Lies and Videotape

Despite record crowds, increased media attention and a new golden era of football championships, the SEC is making news for all the wrong reasons. Every official in the country will tell you they want to be invisible during a game, but in the wake of repeated controversial calls the problem can no longer be ignored. Based on recent commentaries, I am not sure Mike Slive is the man to fix it.

When Mike Slive began his tenure as the SEC's head man, one of his challenges was to clean up the image of a league that was billed as the nation's dirtiest.

Slive's approach to cleaning up the recruiting process is a column for another day and quite a column it would be, but the issue at hand has more to do with on-the-field issues.

The LSU/Georgia match up was one of the most entertaining games of the season, but all of the talk after the game centered around a poor decision to flag Georgia for excessive celebration.

The merits of that idiotic rule withstanding, it was a poor call and the SEC office later admitted it. Georgia was right, but in the end the game ended in another L.

Lost in all the controversy was the great play of Jordan Jefferson and Charles Scott who made the game-winning score.

The exploits of players took a back seat to a flag happy official.

Following that contest Mike Slive had a speaking engagement with a Chattanooga, Tennessee civic group who questioned him on why the league office was so protective of officials who make poor calls.

Slive's answer essentially said that officials make mistakes, which everyone will admit, but that he saw no merit in airing the dirty laundry in what he called a "public hanging".

The next week LSU was on the other end of the stick when Florida's Riley Cooper clearly and deliberately grabbed LSU corner back Chris Hawkins by the jersey and pulled him backwards in an attempt to get open.

The result of the play was a Florida touchdown.

Rogers Redding, the SEC's director of officiating, has said on previous occasions that pass interference is a judgment call.

Despite video evidence that shows the officials missed the call, the SEC office said little.

Cooper was involved the following week in another no call on an offensive pass interference with Arkansas' Andru Stewart.

This one appeared to be another no doubter, but no flag was thrown.

Flags were thrown much later with Florida on the move that aided the Gators in completing the comeback.

The most controversial call of the day was a personal foul call where an Arkansas defender was clearly defending himself from an on-coming Florida blocker.

Official Marc Curles made that fateful call. His crew was also the one that flagged A.J. Green for having fun and making a big play against a great team in a close game.

The result of the drive was a Florida touchdown.

Rogers Redding admitted later that his officials blew the call. He said the matter would be handled internally which is what should have happened.

Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino complained about the officiating in his game with Florida and he was reprimanded by the league office.

Mike Slive cited SEC bylaw 10.5.4 which states that coaches, players and support personnel must refrain from public criticism of officials.

Apparently that rule extends to everyone, but Commissioner Slive himself. Later that day and for the first time in league history, the Birmingham office publicly suspended the entire officiating crew. Slive went on the record and called the entire crew on the carpet by saying, "the entire crew shoulders the responsibility for each play".

Hang 'em high, Mike. Hang 'em high.

Using Slive's logic, he is ultimately responsible for the poor officiating on the field and despite his big talk on the subject he has done very little to correct the problem.

Slive's bullying, grandstanding and public declarations over the suspensions remind me of something an entry level manager might do when handling his first written reprimand of an employee reporting to work late.

Save the commentary Slive and just fix the problem.

Creating a false perception of control and leadership have become par for the course under Slive.

The perception is that the league is not going to put up with shoddy officiating, but less than a week after the public flogging of official Marc Curles and his crew, the national media is once again taking the SEC to task over yet another controversial decision involving Florida.

With the Gators up nine in the fourth quarter at Mississippi State, Dustin Doe nabbed a tipped Tyson Lee pass and darted towards the end zone.

Before the ball crossed the goal line, Mississippi State wide receiver Brandon McRae stripped Doe of the ball and then recovered the ball in the end zone for what should have been a touchback.

The call on the field was a touchdown and in fairness to the officials, the play was a bang bang play that could have gone either way.

The replay official buzzed the crew on the field to let them he know he needed to take a look at it.

Video replays and still shots clearly show the ball was out before it crossed the plane. In today's day of telescopic lenses and high definition video it should have been an easy to call to make for the replay official, but apparently it wasn't.

The call stood and even the ESPN announcers said on air the officials blew the call on the field and in the booth.

The result of the play was a Florida touchdown.

The comments on sports radio and on replay shows were swift. The SEC officials blew another one.

Mike, pardon the suggestion, but maybe you need to start making these calls from home to avoid the controversy. Just keep your referees and replay officals on speed dial to avoid any more bad press for the league.

For Dan Mullen and Mississippi State it was the second blown call by a replay official.

Against Houston Tyson Lee connected with Leon Berry inside the Houston five-yard line for a first and goal only to have the play nullified by a flag for illegal forward pass.

The replays clearly show that Lee was well behind the line of scrimmage, but the SEC replay official apparently needed to adjust the rabbit ears. From his vantage point Lee was across the line which makes you wonder if replay is even necessary any longer.

Mullen's comments after the game when asked about that call were rather tame, "It's not my job to officiate."

After this past weekend's fiasco, the Bulldogs' head man was not nearly as measured in his response.

"I don't even know why we have replay right now in the Southeastern Conference if they're not going to utilize it," Mullen said. "That's twice now that they've blown calls on the replay with our games, resulting in big plays, and I think that's inexcusable for that official.

"I hope he's severely punished if he ever works another SEC game again, because I think it's completely unacceptable."

Those comments will not go over well in Birmingham and Mullen will get a public reprimand which sounds tough, but means nothing.

Remember in this league it is all about perception. God forbid anyone be held accountable for anything tangible.

This is an administration that decided when and where the video board operators could play "Enter Sandman". With all of the problems in this conference with academic fraud and illegal recruiting, we're policing piped in music.

Mike, really?

The integrity of the game is at stake due to inconsistent officiating and we're having meetings, making rules and sending memos out about Lil' John, Lil' Wayne and Lil' Boosie.

Mike, really?

The national pundits are now calling Florida into question because they aren't winning "cleanly" and the SEC office is all tied up in knots because somebody played the opening bars to "Hells Bells" before a third down.

Mike, really? Really?

Lane Kiffin, whose Vols deserve a lot of credit for their play Saturday, was upset about a non-call at the end of his game.

He really has no leg to stand on, but his comments to the media were still rather interesting.

"I'm sure we'll get one of those letters that mean nothing. Bobby (Petrino) got one of those last week, but Florida and Alabama live on," Kiffin said.

I am not one who believes in black helicopter conspiracies and I believe Florida is the best team in the conference and probably in the country.

I love Tim Tebow. He's good for the game and he is helping the other teams in the league sell out to record crowds just about every week.

I am in no way trying to diminish what the Gators have done or are doing, but they don't need any help.

These questionable calls are raising eyebrows around the country and people are talking.

I believe Florida is better than LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State, but that being said those teams deserve a fair shake.

When Slive was hitting fairways and the officials were sitting home with in the air conditioning, these kids were out working hard.

In two-a-days they were stepped on, spit on, cussed out, dressed up and down and they deserve better.

Gas prices and ticket prices both continue to climb, but fans keep coming. They come because they love their school, love their team and love these players. I know they deserve better.

The SEC is the greatest sports conference in America, but right now the league has an image problem.

I thought we hired someone to fix that.

The SEC will come down on Dan Mullen and reprimand him for his comments on officials.

That rule is uncompromising and it appears to be the only one the SEC can consistently get right.

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