“I did this not because something is broken…”

Yesterday, Greg Sankey announced that the SEC has retained the services of international accounting firm Deloitte to conduct a review of its football officiating.  Now, he’s tried to drape that call in the context of providing better communication with the public in the face of criticism about officiating, but I think there’s something deeper afoot.

I mean, let’s face it — there’s been loud and continuous griping about SEC officiating for years and the conference has done little in response, other than the occasional suspension for something truly egregious (hey, there, Mark Curles).  Now, though, Sankey would tell us that the times, they are a-changin’.  And make no mistake, he’s at least considering a level of accountability that certainly would be different.

His underlying rationale, though, isn’t particularly convincing.

“I believed then and I still believe we have as good a college football officiating program as there is yet we can still keep improving,” Sankey told The Associated Press. “And we started first looking at how do we communicate about officiating? And it was forward looking to this coming season that the nature of media, the focus on officiating, the fact there are commentators and broadcast booths giving opinions, sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re not correct. You don’t have complete information. Those are game changers for us.”

Last time I checked, the media’s been with us for a while, Greg.  And they’ve had no problem questioning calls publicly.

So, pardon the weak pun, what’s the game changer now?  It seems pretty obvious to me.

It is known the conference is concerned about the impact of new gambling culture might have on the game’s integrity. A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have the ability to legalize single-game gambling if they so choose.

Currently, one state in the SEC’s footprint (Mississippi) allows sports gambling. The NCAA continues to prohibit gambling by its athletes on any sport it sponsors, even if those athletes are of legal age.

Shaw has made clear the specter of gambling. He brings an FBI agent in each year to speak with his officials. Sankey said part of the review would deal with “conflict of interest” issues.

“Integrity is the bottom line of everything,” Shaw said last month. “… Gambling is a pervasive thing.”

No shit.  If there’s one clear cut existential threat to competitive sports, it’s the threat that the public loses faith in the product being competitive because of the perception that the game is rigged.  The belief that outcomes are being fixed is death.  If you’re a sports league, you have to zealously guard against that, no matter how trivial it may seem.  (That’s why Pete Rose isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame.)

Don’t get me wrong.  If the SEC decides it’s in its best interests to bring more transparency to its officiating, there’s no downside to that.  Not only do we learn more about what happened, but greater accountability from those officials can do nothing but improve their performance.  (A regime like that would have lopped a decade off Penn Wagers’ career.)  But the idea that this is in response to the media hurting Sankey’s fee-fees is a bit misleading.



Filed under SEC Football

15 responses to ““I did this not because something is broken…”

  1. Bigshot

    Whatever is decided will be sure to benefit Bama. ESPN will make sure of that.


  2. Paul

    I believe that many of on this blog, including yourself, have argued that there is more than enough money flowing in to pay full-time professional referees. It needs to happen.


  3. Got Cowdog



  4. mwo

    The head of the officials and at least one on the field official are Bama grads. I’m not saying something hinkey is going on but if UGA was in that equation I’d feel better about our chances. I guess what I’m saying is cheating and benefit of the doubt is not cool, unless we’re doing it.


  5. DawgByte

    “If there’s one clear cut existential threat to competitive sports, it’s the threat that the public loses faith in the product being competitive because of the perception that the game is rigged. The belief that outcomes are being fixed is death.”

    Senator, do you honestly believe people attribute bad calls to a game being fixed? Really?!

    I’ve never witnessed a single post in 23 years of online message board scouring, where someone attributed a bad call to a game being fixed. That’s an absurd assertion.

    If you’re looking for ‘one clear cut existential threat’ to college sports, look no further than ‘Pay for Play’ schemes. That’s the real boogyman.


    • You should read some of the comment threads here sometime. Or listen to talk radio. Or look at some SEC message boards. Or…

      Nice hammer, meet nail hit in your last paragraph, by the way. Can’t fault a guy for trying. 🙂


      • DawgByte

        Like I said, in 23 years of reading message boards for teams across the SEC, I’ve never seen anyone claim a game was fixed, nor have I heard it on Talk Radio. Have I seen people excoriate refs for bad calls? You bet. People use to brutalize Penn Wagers for his blatantly atrocious calls. Many called for him to be sacked, myself included. Again, nobody said he was in the tank for Vegas bookmakers.

        FYI I applaud Sankey for having an independent review, particularly if it leads to better, quicker and more accurate calls during the game. Note, human error will always be a factor. I’m actually more concerned with the amount of time it takes for video review than I am with bad calls. The amount of time it takes to get calls reviewed both locally and confirmed in Birmingham is ridiculous and kills the flow of play.

        Thought you’d like that last paragraph! LOL


        • Uglydawg

          There is at least one poster on GTP that is adamant the the NC game was purposely thrown to ‘Bama by the officials. I don’t feel as strongly as he does…I doubt money changed hands…but I do think the officials were swayed by the ‘Bama sideline and the Saban mystique.
          Tyler Simmons was not offside. Not even close.
          That single “mistake” changed college sports history. But I doubt it was intentional as much as it was just Refs getting it wrong because they subconsciously saw themselves as “players” (and they were, as it turned out). But there are conspiracy believers..Almost any of the folks that have read GTP since inception can name them.


  6. Bulldog Joe

    No doubt the engagement is being managed in Deloitte’s Birmingham office.

    Would have been cheaper to hire a PR agency.


  7. Argondawg

    If this is an independent review by Deloitte……I would love to see them make it public. I am not holding my breath. I also doubt that the NCAA is covered under and FOIA.


  8. HirsuteDawg

    For several years I was called on by a company representative that was also an active SEC football official. A co-worker and Auburn grad repeatedly accused him of a bias against Auburn.

    Looking at a certain ending to a UGA vs LSU matchup, I certainly believe that some officials are, if not crooked, bent.


  9. 69Dawg

    The SEC has been “bent” as the British say for decades. When you have a former head of officials from GT then his successor was from GT and now we have an Alabama grad, how could it not be. I don’t know that the games are fixed for betting purposes but I can assure you Alabama get the benefit of no calls beyond normal. The problem is that there is no immediate way to correct a really bad call. The pros, thanks to the last playoffs, are correcting that at least on PI calls. When the rules are not enforced the players and coaches take advantage. The problem is when there is one set of standards for one team and another for the other team, “the Penn Wager UGA rule”.


  10. Cojones

    The point was made by Finebaum that whatever the call is on the field under a microsecond glimpse of play speed, the booth has a better view and slo-mo to dissect the call and comment. Mistakes are made by refs, yes, but they are also made in the commenter’s words. He used an example of a referee’s call being taken to task at first blush in the booth and when the ref was questioned about it after the game, he understood what fans were aroused by and said that he would have agreed to the booth call. What he saw from his angle on the field turned out to be the correct call on slo-mo replay.

    I am amazed at the accuracy of some officials whilst other refs seem to be blind and dumb on a few calls. Overall they are great in my view, but that doesn’t excuse the missed calls and incorrect calls that occurred in both ‘Bama games, the paramount game of missed calls being for the NC.

    Now, where in hell did I place my glasses?


  11. Uglydawg

    I’ve advocated a few times (on this subject) that head coaches be empowered with the choice of banning up to two officials from doing their games in a given year..(post hoc..not before the disputed game). The ban would stand for a calendar year. If an official gets banned by two different coaches in twelve months, he loses the opportunity to do a bowl game and also goes on probation. If he gets banned by a third coach in those twelve months, he’s fired.
    Or have a grading system. Every official gets a score from a neutral party that would review the film of every SEC game. At the end of the year, report cards go out and the bottom few are fired, the next tier up are put on probation, etc. The top tier (highest performers with the greatest integrity) get a bonus and the best bowl trips.
    Pretending these guys are saints that only make a few really iffy mistakes is bull hockey. Some of them are pretzels.