I’ve always admired exhaustive number crunching about things that I’m too lazy to pursue myself, so you should take a couple of minutes to read Dean Legge’s piece on Georgia’s history with penalties. When you boil it down, there are two things to take from his article:
- Georgia’s penalty rate, particularly in nationally televised games, has accelerated in the wake of the 2007 Florida game.
- Georgia’s penalty rate has absolutely no impact on wins and losses.
Given the second data point, that means I really shouldn’t care. And with regard to the rate itself, I don’t. However (and you knew there was a “however” coming, didn’t you?), there’s a larger point of concern that can’t be brushed off merely by referencing Georgia’s record. I think Legge’s on to something in his conclusion.
Do the officials have something against Georgia? That’s a question that can no longer be dismissed off hand considering the celebration penalty the Bulldogs suffered the other day – That call cost Georgia the game. But, that is an unanswerable question. Are the officials out to get Georgia? That seems a little too strong. Are the officials more likely to throw a flag on Georgia than they have been in the past? Yes. The numbers don’t lie. Since the 2007 Florida game officials, particularly in nationally televised contests, have only failed to flag Georgia for a personal foul once. Georgia didn’t have a personal foul called against them in the two games before the 2007 Florida game or in three of the four before it. Georgia fans like to remember the celebration during the win over Florida in 2007 – they are not the only ones. The officials seem to remember it, too – nearly every Saturday.
To be absolutely clear, I don’t think the fix is in, or anything like that. But I do think there’s a heightened sensitivity for officials about Georgia games. And I do think it’s detrimental, although not in the wins and losses department.
First of all, while there’s no doubt that the personal foul on Green chafes especially because it came against my team at a crucial moment, it’s not like I (as is the case with many others) haven’t bitched about the inconsistent way in which the excessive celebration penalty has been applied in college football before last Saturday. It’s a widespread problem, plain and simple.
It’s obvious that the officials on the field have little guidance about how to make that call – on the one hand, you’ve got Rogers Redding’s bs about how “We tell our guys not to go looking for this stuff”, and on the other you’ve got these same officials being shoveled into “combines” where they’re made aware of the NCAA’s desire to emphasize sportsmanship issues. Redding, as much as he’d like to, can’t have it both ways on this. It’s made a bad situation worse. And when you combine that with a sensitivity about calling Georgia games, well, it’s almost surprising that it’s taken so long for something like the Green situation to surface.
But even scarier to consider is Alem’s hit on Caleb King. Again, I am in no way suggesting that the officials deliberately chose not to call a penalty in that situation in order to punish Georgia, but I can’t help but wonder if it in some way is a consequence, albeit an unintended one, of focusing too much attention on the kids in red. In other words, if you’re more concerned with making sure that one team doesn’t cause problems than you are about anything else, it’s only natural that, sooner or later, that anything else is going to slip by.
It’s a tough enough game for officials to supervise as it is. College athletes over the past few decades have only gotten bigger, stronger and faster. I realize that can be hard to keep up with in every occasion, so why make the task even more difficult?
I obviously have no proof that anything like this is going on, but if Redding has a shred of professional integrity, he ought to realize that even the perception that Legge’s stats create is damaging. If nothing else, there’s a need for another “combine” where he sits his officials down and addresses this.