Steve Shaw, pacing himself

There is a lot to unpack from this interview with SEC officiating coordinator Steve Shaw about the debate over pace, but the first thing I’ve got to say about the man is that he’s much less arrogant about the topic than Bobby Gaston was.  Compare Gaston’s justification for inserting himself into the process…

Richt argued that the officials should put the ball in play as soon as they are set, regardless of how much time has elapsed, but Gaston said that would provide the offense an unfair advantage.

“Mark Richt would eat their lunch,” he said. “He would go straight to the ball and snap it. He’d get in 100 plays. We have about half the coaches who think we go too fast and about half who think we go too slow so we must be in about the right spot.”

… with what Shaw has to say about that:

“Whether we like it or not as officials, the college rule is different than the NFL rule,” Shaw said. “The college rule says when the ball is ready it can be snapped. So what we’ve got to do is be very consistent — and I’m not just talking SEC, I’m talking nationally. This is a big topic with (officiating) coordinators: How do we stay very consistent from a timing perspective on when the ball is ready and certainly any time there’s substitutions?”

That’s the difference between enforcing the rules and interpreting the rules according to some personal aesthetic agenda.  (Although, interestingly, Shaw seems to have overlooked what Gaston squelched with Richt when he noted at the time the 40-second clock was adopted, “Nobody was pressing the clock like they are now.”)

Shaw also points out that pace isn’t simply a matter of what offensive coaches try to do.

Conference officiating coordinators, along with College Football Officiating, LLC, are in the process of writing up specific standards of how to spot the ball ready for play “for every official in America to read and understand,” Shaw said.

In the SEC, Shaw said the general principle is the umpire will almost always spot the ball. The umpires are instructed to don’t sprint, don’t walk, but to jog crisply.

“I have nine SEC crews,” Shaw said. “When you talk about pace, you have different athleticism of umpires. What is a crisp jog to one guy is maybe not the exact same crisp jog to another guy.”

How much of that is due to athleticism and how much to, say, how an umpire feels about the proper amount of time to get set?  Common standards for spotting the ball seems like something that should have been established already, but in any event, it’s a welcome development.

It always seems that any time I read something about the SEC and officiating, something’s bound to turn up that’s irritating.  In this case, it’s adding the eighth official.  Shaw acknowledges that the conference’s test run had been successful, but…

The SEC tested eight officials in spring practices last year and will do so again this spring. What the SEC found was that an eighth official freed the umpire and referee to focus more on their pre-snap duties. Instead of the umpire spotting the ball, the eighth official — called the alternate referee — spots the ball.

“We manage uptempo much better (with an eighth official),” Shaw said.

More than tempo, though, Shaw said the eighth official allowed for better handling of spread offenses. For example, when five receivers go downfield, five officials become responsible to watch them, leaving just the umpire and referee to handle line-of-scrimmage play, including dangerous hits to the quarterback.

Although the early feedback is helpful, Shaw said he’s not sure if the SEC is ready to switch to eight officials during the season yet.

“We’ll be talking about it internally in the conference,” he said. “There would be latitude to do it in conference games only. Then you get to, do you want consistent officiating all year (since an eighth official is only allowed for conference games)? There’s a cost component to it. There’s one more official the schools have to pay so that always factors in. [Emphasis added.]  What I’m trying to look at is does that make us better?”

The conference is swimming in money, with more to come, but can’t swing the dough for nine guys who it admits can help manage the game better?  SEC, you’re so SEC.

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13 Comments

Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

13 responses to “Steve Shaw, pacing himself

  1. I’m surprised Little Nicky didn’t just go to $live and $haw and tell them that the ball shouldn’t be snapped within 10 seconds because Alabama said so. Everything else in Birmingham is done to placate and for the benefit of the Tide. Why not this?

  2. Irishdawg

    Hell, the SEC can’t seem to afford officials with the slightest bit of competence, either.

  3. mdcgtp

    When Shaw says something that f#@$cking stupid, it does not take advanced analytics to shame him. Put cost of 8th official in the numerator and the total revenue of SEC football in the denominator. It is insanity for Shaw to even factor cost into the equation. Honestly, I would invest heavily a more high tech camera system that enable better angles on replay if the gains could be cost justified.

  4. Silver Creek Doug

    Shaw talking about the cost doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    I referee HS soccer in GA and it’s universally agreed that 3 officials are better than 2, but all the AD’s see is the cost difference (and it’s pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things). Ergo, we use 2 refs in my area and go to 3 come playoff time (when the state picks up the tab).

    • Hackerdog

      It’s not really an apt comparison. SEC football revenue is hundreds of millions a year. And it’s extremely profitable. HS soccer loses money.

  5. BigDawg

    As far as SEC officials go…. IMO the fewer the better.

  6. AlphaDawg

    Anyone know what these guys get paid?

  7. Macallanlover

    Embarrassing to hear the conference guru for officials use minimal cost considerations when discussing a way to upgrade the quality of the product. I liked Shaw as an head referee but he is a flop as the director of officiating for the SEC, the clear leader of CFB conferences. I cannot think of a thing that has improved under his watch, nada. Shaw even defended the missed calls in the Vandy game while admitting one of them might have been missed. No consistency, and still Penn Wagers is allowed to have a crew.

    Get Shaw back in stripes on the field, he is just another puppet for an incompetent commissioner.

    • 69Dawg

      I consider Steve to be the lesser of a whole lot of evils. The problem with the SEC is the lack of transparency with the disciplining of the officials and the crews. If an official is reprimanded or suspended it should be made public. He screwed up in public and the public he screwed should know that the league is trying it’s best to fix the problem. Now we just get madder when the league seemingly circles the wagons and make excuses.

  8. ASEF

    Remember the howling over the lack of HDTV in the reklay booth after the Bama LSU game a few years back? Wouldn’t have made a difference, but, boy did it embarrass B’ham – and the conversions were made.

    And that’s what drives change in conference offices. Only things that seize a wide spotlight and call the credibility of the game into question. Outside of that… Lesson: squeaky wheels, boys, squeaky wheels.