Its Official: More refs needed now in playoffs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2005

A few years ago the Mississippi High School Activities Association, which oversees all athletic functions involving the public schools in the state, went to a football district system which held the number of districts in the state at eight, with the top four teams from each district in the playoffs.

This was a double-edged sword, because though more teams became involved in the playoffs, it doubled the required number of football officials needed for first round playoff play.

Early I had noted the MHSAA lists 889 football officials registered to officiate public high school games in the state. This past weekend there were 48 playoff games scheduled, as well as 37 regular-season games in 1A and 5A.

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With six officials assigned to each game (five on-field officials and a clock operator) that number of games translates to 510 football officials on duty. I do not know from year to year how the 10 individual areas in the state which assign officials work their playoff assignments, but it seems to me that, strictly on a numbers basis, a bunch of officials with minimum experience are getting playoff experience early in their careers.

I try not to be overly critical of high school football officiating. Most of the officials I saw work this season seemed to hustle, and most were in the proper physical condition.

The officiating risk when less-experienced officials are involved is that those officials will tend to either under-officiate and throw no flags at all or over-officiate by flagging everything in sight. There is a happy medium when experience and common sense lead to the judgment that makes a good football official.

Georgia&8217;s unlikely win over Auburn, coupled with South Carolina and &8220;Old Ball Coach&8221; Spurrier&8217;s upset of Florida left Georgia needing only a win over Kentucky to cinch a spot in the SEC Championship game.

Though Brodie Croyle has stayed healthy, seven dropped passes and four LSU sacks ruined the Tide&8217;s hopes for an undefeated season and a shot at a national championship.

A comment on the Ole Miss loss. Though the Rebels drew only three penalties for 32 yards in the Arkansas game Saturday, the game turned on what was obviously the stupidest penalty of all.

I don&8217;t know if the Ole Miss player was called for a personal foul or for unsportsmanlike conduct, but either way his lack of discipline probably cost Ole Miss the game.

A Rebel defender had sacked the quarterback for a 5-yard loss, but the penalty turned that loss into a 15-yard gain and a first down, leading to an Arkansas touchdown.

Instead of sitting that player down for the game and maybe more, he was sent back in after one play. Most successful college coaches I have seen would have bitten the bullet and kept that kid on the bench.

And that&8217;s official.

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