It’s Official: Dropped ball hurt Rebels big

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

I have believed for a long time that every play of every football game impacts the end result of that game.

That is not to say the winner or loser of the game is actually determined by that play, but each missed block or tackle, dropped pass, fumble or penalty in the first quarter has just as much effect on the game as does the same mistake in the fourth quarter.

However, seldom have I seen one dropped pass have the impact as did the fourth-quarter drop by Ole Miss in their Memphis game Saturday.

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That drop cost Ole Miss the game, probably Eli Manning the Heisman Trophy, and kept coach David Cutcliffe from working on his much-needed running game.

Back to officiating. I have mentioned in the past that SEC football officials, like all other college officials, are classified as independent contractors.

That fact was brought home forcefully to SEC officials six or eight years ago when an attempt was made by the officials to organize a bargaining unit.

The group retained the lawyer who had successfully represented the NFL officials when they organized and negotiated a very lucrative deal with the NFL. The thinking was that college officials, led by the SEC group, could do the same thing. Wrong.

SEC football officials do have an unofficial organization, and though it is not officially recognized by the conference, through its officers and committee the group has been able to talk freely with the commissioner.

The officials I spoke to say Slive left officiating in the hands of Supervisor of Officials Bobby Gaston, and the 2002 season ran much more smoothly than had the previous seasons.

The SEC Football Officials Association annually elects a president, president-elect, secretary (generally a permanent position) and treasurer (also permanent).

President of the SECFOA for 2003 and 2004 is Don Shanks. Don and his wife Carolyn live at Deerfield in Madison County.

Shanks coached at Hanging Moss Academy, then began officiating high school football in 1975. He was taken into the SEC in 1979 and plans to hopefully officiate one more year after this season.

Don has officiated a number of bowl games and remains probably the top-ranked side judge in the conference. He and I officiated a number of games together early in his career and late in my career.

Natchez fans will be interested to know Shanks was Coach Ed Reed’s last Notre Dame Box tailback at Provine High School before Reed later moved to South Natchez High School

Though Don Shanks won’t talk out of school the consensus of those SEC officials with whom I have talked is Slive is much more in tune with the officials than his predecessor, Roy Kramer.

The 2002 season did not find any SEC officials suspended because of bad press or because of a single coach’s complaint.

The officials are able to relax and concentrate on their job without having to constantly look over their shoulder.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. You can reach him at