It’s Official: Best of luck to Saban, LSU squad

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

My belated congratulations to LSU coach Nick Saban for being selected as the College Football Coach of the Year.

Though I never officiated an actual game for coach Saban, I did serve as the SEC server of officials for a number of his contests at LSU and visited with him in his office with the referee and umpire prior to each of those games.

Coach Saban was unfailingly courteous to each of us during those visits. The questions he asked of the referee were always pertinent and to the point and never frivolous or convoluted as with some other coaches.

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I certainly wish the Tigers the best of luck in their quest for the national championship against Oklahoma.

Speaking of Oklahoma, their quarterback Jason White was certainly a deserving winner of the Heisman Trophy. Mississippi pride had me pulling for Eli Manning, but the voters felt differently.

One wonders at the media’s accuracy when it was variously reported that 20, 40 or 50 percent of the Heisman voters were cast before Oklahoma’s last game.

Who knows what the actual figure might be or how many of those early voters might have changed their ballots had they watched Oklahoma’s whipping by Kansas State.

SEC football officials have been assigned to work the Continental Tire Bowl, the Sun Bowl and the Gator Bowl. Since the SEC only landed one BCS Bowl slot, the Gator Bowl seems to be the group’s big game.

The crew officiating the SEC&160;Championship game was headed by referee Tom Ritter, whose first year as a regular SEC official was the 2000 season.

Umpire Russ Pulley began working in the SEC in 2002, but the rest of the crew were veteran officials. The crew assigned to the Championship Game do not draw bowl game duties.

All but a couple of the 21 men who drew on-field bowl game assignments are veterans officiating in the SEC, and those officials with only a couple of years experience in the conference have years of work in college, most in other major conferences.

An idea has been fermenting in my brain (many would say my whole brain is fermented), and that is the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Foooball Foundation should sperahead the formation of a Miss-Lou Sports Hall of Fame.

The Joe Fortunato Golf Classic and the annual awards banquet take up most of the winter and spring months for the chapter, but it seems the fall would be a perfect time for an annual function to announce selections.

I’ll even throw out a few obvious names &045; college football and NFL greats Joe Fortunato and Allen Brown, local high school football and basketball legend Tony Byrne, the late coach A.I. Rexinger, longtime writer and local sports encyclopedia Glenvall Estes and nationally known tennis player and wheelchair tennis teacher and pioneer Jeannie Peabody.

There are many others who would be deserving, but to suggest more might hurt some feelings. After all, this is merely a suggestion.

And that’s official.

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