Graning: Out of league affairs must have fair refs

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

This past Saturday I again watched two more extreme examples of why the NCAA must move toward requiring that officials from a neutral conference be assigned to officiate football games between teams representing two different major conferences.

First of all Florida was victimized by the Atlantic Coast Conference officials working its game with the Florida State.

Though neither team was overly penalized, there were a number of non-calls duirng the game, including perhaps the most glaring. An offensive pass interference violation by P.K. Sam, the Florida State player who caught the game-winning pass in the final minute of play, was ignored.

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I did not see the fight that followed the end, but I always thought Coach Bobby Bowden had more control over his team than to let them insult an opponent by jumping up and down on the opponent’s logo on the field.

The desire &045; no, the necessity &045; to win has left CLASS out of the college vocabulary. If the no-fight rule is followed, both teams will be short handed for presumably their bowl games.

The other game affected by one-sided officiating was the Alabama v. Hawaii contest Saturday night.

Though Hawaii has to be given credit for their fine play, Alabama’s 11 penalties against five for Hawaii, as well as the timing of those penalties, give cause for concern.

Because Alabama is on probation and cannot play in a bowl game this game, the trip to Hawaii was their &uot;season reward.&uot;

Hawaii’s victory gave its league, the Western Athletic Conference, a boost which could result in that conference perhaps gaining an additional assignment for that conference’s officials.

The WAC assigned the officials for the Alabama v. Hawaii game. Florida State’s win assured that team of a BCS bowl bid, and may mean an extra bowl assignment for the ACC football officials.

Do I even suggest that these officials cheated? Certainly not, but others will definitely say so.

Until sometime in the early 1970s, bowl officiating assignments were actually made by the participating coaches.

After bowl bids were accepted the opposing coaches met and, among other things, determined which coach assigned which officials’ positions for the game.

Then, the coach contacted his conference and told them who he wanted assigned to his bowl game.

Back then, there were only a handful of bowl games the Southeastern Conference received a majority of the bids. This meant that SEC officials worked more bowl games than all other conference officials.

Through the NCAA, the rest of the country was able to gain enough control to change the rules to require that neutral officials be assigned to all bowl games, which opened up bowl assignments to many more officials.

One really bad part of those changed regulations required that each conference assign its officials to bowl games strictly by ranking and rating, with no allowance for a conference to assign an older or retiring official if he didn’t rank high enough for one of that conference’s assignments, regardless of how minor that bowl might be.

I know this: if a person has officiated major college football long enough to have reached whatever retirement age maybe he is capable of officiating any bowl game played.

And, That’s Official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached at