It’s Official:Refs must make sure it’s official

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

I sort of knew if the season went on long enough I would end up eating crow. Anyone who attempts to prognosticate college football does sooner or later.

I was not surprised when Georgia beat Tennessee because the Vols had been sort of shaky the last couple of games. At least that tough old East Tennessee crow will taste a little better with some Georgia peach sauce on it.

Over the past several years I have written many times about the four areas of emphasis that sports officials must concentrate on. They are complete knowledge of the rules of the game, absolute familiarity with the mechanics of officiating their position, physical conditioning and judgement.

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Whenever I see an official, particularly in football, who falls short in those areas, it is disappointing. An exception can be made for the brand-new official who doesn’t have the experience to have developed proper judgement and who has not yet had time to see enough action to be able to translate the written rules into what he (or she) sees on the field or court.

However, there can never be an excuse for lack of conditioning.

A few days ago I watched a middle school football game. All four officials, who appeared to be middle aged or older, hustled and seemed to be in condition physically. When it came to rules, however, they fell short.

On two occasions, the teams punted, and the ball was rolling toward the end zone. In both plays, a kid covering the punt from the punting team touched the ball at the 1-yard line, but the ball rolled on into the end zone.

The correct call should have been a touchback, since simply touching the ball does not end the play. In both cases the officials marked the ball at the 1.

In one case, the team was able to move on down the field and out of trouble. The other team fumbled on their first play with the opponent recovering for a touchdown, which changed the complexion of the contest.

The officials huddled to discuss both plays but did not overrule the official who made the original call. He appeared to be much older than the other three, so perhaps the others were intimidated by him. I have seen that happen, even in college.

I can understand it is often difficult to obtain officials for a weekday game which might start before most people get off work, but if an individual puts on the uniform for the money only, that person is doing a serious mis-service to the players.

While watching LSU handle Vanderbilt, it was obvious Vandy is better this year than they have been in the recent past. It is also obvious the Commodores do not have enough quality athletes to contend for a SEC title.

It remains possible for Ole Miss and State to compete every few years, but Vanderbilt will always have difficulty recruiting enough really good players to regularly hang with Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida.

After losing to Middle Tennessee State, the ‘Dores will struggle to become bowl eligible, with only Kentucky a real possibility for that fifth win, and they need six wins to qualify.

And that’s official

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at