“When in doubt throw the flag.”

Ole Miss beat writer Parrish Alford explores the legacy of consistency Mike Slive has left SEC officials on enforcement of the new targeting rules.  He, like me, is puzzled by Slive’s response to two plays from last season:

Elston’s hit fell within a range of gray area that allowed for his suspension as the league enforced its policy. The initial contact was below the helmet, and Elston’s momentum carried him higher into the hit.

Dial’s hit — You can see it here — was clearly an effort to target Georgia’s starting quarterback. Elston — Here it is — was at least trying to make a play.

If the rule of thumb is “When in doubt penalize and eject” it would seem that we can expect an increase in the number of ejections.

Safety is the top priority. It’s easy to talk about safety and more difficult to achieve it in a naturally aggressive sport whose participants are from the beginning of tackle football praise for inflicting pain and punishment.

The quest for safety needs to include equal application of the rules.

There was enough in Elston’s hit for debate. There should have been no debate about Dial’s hit, and nothing happened.

I questioned Slive’s decision to suspend Elston.  But once he went there – “the result of a flagrant and dangerous act” – he left himself open to exactly the kind of skepticism he received after he did nothing about Dial.  And now he’s dumping the problem on officials who will have to react in the heat of the moment?

I don’t see this ending well.


Filed under SEC Football

33 responses to ““When in doubt throw the flag.”

  1. Gravidy

    Any time your guiding principle is ‘When in doubt, take the most rash action available’ you know you are dealing with…well, let’s just say that’s not how I would handle it.

  2. Just as with everything in officiating, it’s going to depend on the crew and their willingness to enforce the rule. I only hope that ejections will be subject to an immediate booth review. In the Dial case, there still would have been no action because there was no flag to start with.

  3. GaskillDawg

    I do not understand folks being confused. Slive was consistent with an underlying principle. Had Ole Miss been playing for the BCS championship the next game Elston would not have been suspended.

    • 69Dawg

      +1000 The SEC has always had a standing policy that the highest ranked team gets the calls, except they can’t get the refs who have a long memory to do it with UGA. We are still paying the price for the Ford crew that was suspended after the No fumble fumble against Tech. Combine that with the Celebration and we will be lucky to have enough players to finish a game if the zebras can eject. Hell they have not ejected for punches but this is the green flag to end all green flags.

  4. Go Dawgs!

    I’ll be honest here. I’d probably have at least some grudging respect for the league’s decision if Slive just acknowledged that he didn’t suspend Dial because Alabama was about to play for the national championship. There was no blood on the play. Murray was hurt but not injured, and he played on. Dial deserved a suspension but I think we all knew he wasn’t getting one. We all knew why. Slive pretending like there was any other reason beyond a crystal football is what I find insulting. If that play had taken place in Week 5, Dial would have been suspended and there’s really no doubt or mystery about it.

  5. AthensHomerDawg

    But? “It appeared that Dial thought quickly that Aaron was still in the play and Bama now had the ball. He blocked a guy who was going to stop their runner. While head contact occurred, it didn’t look like Dial was going for it deliberately.”

    • Tony

      I agree 100%. A lot of noise was made about it and while it should have been a penalty for a blow to the helmet, it’s clear that Aaron’s eyes were on the ball returner and that he was making a move towards the ball carrier. If you’re a QB and you throw an INT, either turn around and go to the bench, or expect you’ll get blocked if you go for the tackle. Had Dial done that to him going the other direction, I’d say eject him.

      • If, “by making a move”, you mean trotting in the general direction of the way the play was flowing, okay. No way he was hellbent on making a play on the defender there.

        • Tony

          I was at the game and had no problem with the hit, except that it was a blow to the head. I watched the replay on the big screen and thought it should have been a flag for the helmet, but yes( and you can clearly see it on the replay, watch it) he was headed to the ball carrier with his focus on him. Just one step but the play was only from one hash mark to the other from him. He should have been blocked. The outrage was due to the commentators focus, we didn’t have that at the game and I didn’t hear it until I watched the recording. I also watched the CSS replay and I think Buck Belue had the appropriate comment, if you throw an INT, as a QB you better get your head on a swivel. Those were my thoughts too. Don’t throw the INT.

          • … except that it was a blow to the head.

            Um, that’s kinda the whole point here, isn’t it?

            • Tony

              Yes, it does make the point. It was a missed penalty, it just didn’t warrant an ejection. You’re not a defenseless player if you’re trying to get to the play, be aware of you’re surroundings, you can be blocked. The QB is no different than the guard in that situation.

              • Under the new targeting rules, and under Slive’s own standard from the Elston hit, it does warrant a suspension.

              • Cojones

                Tony, the remark that AHD made was my quote made several days ago. He threw it out to be peed on, but you graciously agreed with it and spoiled his idea of a setup. Thanks.

                AHD hasn’t gotten over the election yet so keep that in mind. Meanwhile, I owe him one but have to go and visit my bag of devious Gop games. What the hell, anyone can just turn on Fox Gnus and listen to their retreaded politicos for that.

                • HaveuseenmyStapler

                  For the love of everything holy, there was no need to interject politics into this conversation. You’re little snipes are just as annoying to read as those of anyone else, including AHD. I’ll concede that there are some topics on GTP that warrant some political discourse, but come on man.

  6. AthensHomerDawg

    Go to the 2:50 mark.

    • Watchman

      Admitting up front to bias as a Bama fan, this is the play (the hit on McCarron) that confuses me. It seems pretty clearly not only helmet to helmet, but textbook targeting–the defender launched himself headfirst into McCarron’s head/upper chest. Yet Mark Richt said the penalty was “bull crap.” In fact he was so mad he said it twice. You could clearly read his lips on the replay.

      If this hit being called a penalty is “bull crap” how can what Dial did to Murray be worthy of ejection? It still looks to me (there isn’t a clear camera shot of the entire sequence) like Dial hit with his shoulder first and then their heads collided, but as I said, I’m a Bama fan and your mileage may vary. But even if Dial went in helmet first, he didn’t leave his feet and launch himself like the play above. Where does the outrage come from?

      I know there’s a lot of snark between fanbases, but I’m really asking a serious question. Is it because of the interception/blind side thing? McCarron certainly saw his hit coming and Murray didn’t. Is that it, or is it something else? (Or is it just fan view that makes the difference?)

      • Cojones

        Tit for tat doesn’t make things right, but perception is everything on that play, no matter which part of the argument you support.

        The replay of it (“the hit” on Murray) several days ago shows the helmet contacting first because the shoulder contact is out of the frame. I recalled what you described when viewing the play after the game, but differing film angles call for differing takes on the play. The differing angles give us all a differing perspective.

      • Let me answer your question with a question: if there were nothing to Dial’s hit, why was it necessary for Saban to discipline him?

      • Tony

        I think you’re absolutely right. It almost always comes down to affiliation. I think that part is sad. We want the refs to be impartial but can’t be ourselves. I agree that one play was really no different than the other and neither should have resulted in suspension. The Dawson play was probably ten times more warranted than either of those and you didn’t hear any our own fans calling for him to sit. PERSPECTIVE.

      • HamDawg11

        Dial didn’t leave his feet because he is 6″ taller than Murray. Most times when players “launch” is when a player is coming down from a jump or the defensive player is in a croched position, making his head and upper body lower than the offensive player. Dial was already in an advantageous position coming from Murray’s blind side (and carrying 100 more lbs), so he didn’t have to launch.

        I live in Trussville, AL and ran into Dial in the Target the week after the SEC championship game. I’m 5’11”, 200 lbs, roughly the same size as Murray. Dial is a big boy. I mean, at 42 I could take him, but he’s a large human being!

  7. Watchman

    Did he? I remember hearing that it would be “handled internally” but I’m not sure what if anything was done.

    I understand the argument that Dial should have been flagged on the play. I disagree as noted above, but I’m also fully aware I’m not an objective observer. What I don’t get is the disconnect between the hit on McCarron being a “bull crap” penalty and the hit on Murray obviously meriting a suspension.

    It is (to quote Salvor Hardin by way of Isaac Asimov) a poor atom blaster that doesn’t point both ways.

    • I thought Ogletree deserved the penalty. My only objection about that play was that McCarron lobbied the ref for the call.

      • Tony

        Why wouldn’t you lobby for the call? Especially since you agree it was right. We done the same thing on the tip pass that was intercepted and I’m still not sure we didn’t talk them into making the wrong call.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        I think it is bad form for a player to lobby for a personal foul call and then get one. Lobbying for a personal foul penalty is a very good reason for a ref NOT to throw a flag IMHO.

  8. mdcgtp

    While I think there is disagreement on this topic. there is a lot of agreement here as well.

    Almost everyone agrees that Slive did not punish Dial because the national championship game was at hand, and penalizing Bama theoretically penalized the conference. So as commissioner, his duties were to proteect the SEC. As folks pointed out, he would have been suspended for a regular season game, and perhaps even if it were LSU (see Kwame and Shawn Williams 2011!!!!)

    The simple fact is that when you have judgement calls of this nature, you have several dynamics at play. As eethomas points out, different crews might have different standards. further, in real time, it is possible that humans will in fact make mistakes.

    The question is what to do about it.

    With regards to flagrant fouls, the NBA allows refs to go to video tape to see if it is a flagrant “1” or “2” which carry different penalties. I suppose logically speaking one could ask why its okay to use replay for flagrant fouls as opposed to charging or traveling or the football equivalents of say holding or pass interference and I don’t have a good answer as to why. that said, my guess is that because flagrant fouls (or the football equivalent of the personal foul/unnecessary roughness) have a bit more “grey” area.

    Bottom line – Dial’s hit on Aaron was vicious, to the head, and almost completely unnecessary as he was unlikely to make the play either way. While certainly one could argue that ANY motions towards the play justify the his and make Aaron a fair target, I am not sure that should be the rule/standard. I don’t really know what the right standard is, but I thought the hit was unnecessary and the head shot made it suspension worthy

  9. Keese

    Senator sorry to get off topic….but why is there not more being said about holding calls last year??? (or lack thereof). One year it’s excessive, the next year it’s not being called when it should’ve been…

    • Don’t know… I remember being astounded that with 70-plus pass attempts, there wasn’t a single holding call in the Georgia-Tennessee game.

      • Cojones

        How’s that stack up against viewed transgressions? Anyone?

        So both teams had perfect O lines and backs. That’s great! At least two SEC teams are playing fair in the arena. Who were the officials again?🙂