Head SEC official says reversal in Alabama-Mississippi game correct

Published 7:47 am Tuesday, October 16, 2007

JACKSON (AP) — The Southeastern Conference’s coordinator of officials said Monday there was nothing wrong with the reversal of a call Saturday that guaranteed Alabama’s 27-24 win over Mississippi.

The reversal led to a storm of hurled garbage, the arrest of three people and more hard feelings between the Rebels and the Crimson Tide.

“When I watched the tape this morning, I saw nothing that would give me guidance to dispute or disagree with the ruling of the replay official,” said Rogers Redding, the SEC’s coordinator of officials.

Email newsletter signup

Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron and athletic director Pete Boone strongly disagreed in their first comments since the game in Oxford.

“The game should not end on a judgmental call from the box,” Orgeron said. “Not after a game like that.”

The rivals swapped leads throughout the game and it appeared Alabama would win with a late rally. But on fourth down, Ole Miss quarterback Seth Adams found receiver Shay Hodge for what appeared to be a 41-yard reception at the Alabama 4 with 7 seconds left.

The Rebels lined up to take a shot into the end zone for the win. But Alabama coach Nick Saban called a timeout and appealed to the officials to ask for a review.

“I just happened to be at a vantage point on that particular play where I saw the guy run out of bounds and it was right behind the officials who it should have been what he was looking at, but he probably was looking at the catch instead of that,” said Saban, the son of an official. “It’s tough to see everything.”

It turned out Saban was right. Hodge did run out of bounds, but the call wasn’t that simple. If he had been forced out by an Alabama defender, Hodge had every right to run back in and make the catch.

If he hadn’t been forced out, he could only become eligible again if a Crimson Tide player touched the ball before he did.

On the television replay, and to the more than 50,000 fans, it looked as if Hodge snatched away the ball after an Alabama defensive back first grabbed it.

As Alabama ran the final seconds off the clock to win the game, fans began throwing garbage onto the field — everything from whiskey and vodka bottles to a complete set of red high heels.

Saban urged his players to keep their helmets on and get into the tunnel as quickly as possible. He said he wanted to make sure his players weren’t “mugging.”

“There is no class in that,” Saban told reporters after the game. “I just want our players to represent the university with class. If (Ole Miss fans) want to be classless, that’s their business.”

The comment drew a sharp rebuke from Boone. He said he talked Monday morning with Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who reminded him of a similar incident last month when Crimson Tide fans threw garbage at Georgia players.

“To a certain extent maybe Nick is kind of like a parent who can see the faults of the children that live next door, but maybe not your own,” Boone said.

He said the fusillade of garbage was not acceptable and that arrests were made and will be made if it happens again. But he thought Saban should have minded his own business.

“I’m not real sure that some other coach ought to be talking about our fans,” Boone said. “I kind of resented that a little bit.”

All the hubbub was wasted as it turns out.

Redding said the replay official was right in ruling that Hodge was not “blocked” out of bounds, as the rule requires. And he saw two views of the catch that went against Ole Miss. One showed Hodge touch the ball first and the second showed a “simultaneous” catch, which by rule goes to the offensive player.

“I’m sick, but I have to deal with it,” Orgeron said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s very, very unfair. This is not about me. It’s about my team. We should’ve been allowed to play that last 7 seconds and let the best team win.”