Farewell to a friend and more replays

Published 12:23 am Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I write this week’s column saddened by the death of an old friend and officiating colleague, Lea Paslay.

A native of Como, Lea was a high school All American football player at Sardis High School before moving on to Ole Miss. We met while we were in summer school at Ole Miss in 1952. Lea went on to play both halfback and quarterback for Coach John Vaught at Ole Miss, and made several All SEC teams.

In 1967, both Lea and I were accepted into the Southeastern Conference football officiating ranks. In those days, all SEC schools fielded freshman teams, and there were no real restrictions about officiating freshman games for your Alma Mater. Lea and I officiated many of those freshman games, including a number of Ole Miss freshman games.

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At that time, a former teammate of Lea’s at Ole Miss was coaching the freshmen. Eddie Crawford, also Ole Miss’ basketball coach for a time, used to really give us a hard time, particularly during an Ole Miss vs. LSU freshman game. Often, after those LSU freshman games, Lea would stay with me in Natchez before driving back to Tupelo. He was not only an officiating colleague but a family friend. I hate to see him go.

Poor Lea would have really suffered with the Rebels this year. I personally don’t see how the Division 1A teams in this state can regularly compete in the SEC. The talent pool is so much shallower than in the rest of the states. Mississippi just does not produce the quantity of players to feed three Division 1A teams, several 1AA teams, and a number of smaller classification football programs, especially when so many players have to go to community college first.

Mississippi Private School Association Athletic Director Les Triplett has advised me that the eight-man football played by six MPSA member schools this year uses the regular high school football rules.

The only exception is that only five players are required to be on the offensive team’s line of scrimmage. The game officials come from the regular roster, and have the same duties and pay as if they were officiating an 11-man game.

Last weekend, Calvary Christian defeated Russell Christian 14 – 0 in an abnormally low scoring game (that also matched the two Meridian teams). Pick-of-the-eight-man-litter Kemper ran over Ben’s Ford (La.) 67 – 0, and Rebul handled Mt. Salus 48 – 14. Last Monday, in a make-up game, Ben’s Ford had defeated Russell 49 – 29.

I understand those officials draw the same pay as for a regular game, but with that much scoring the work has to be harder. Triplett remarked that the MPSA hopes the eight-man season will lead those schools to start or resume 11-man football in the future.

The replay discussion will not soon end. Had Ole Miss played a stronger game against Arkansas, it would be even louder. For some reason, the SEC seems to be unwilling to release the tapes of the call in the Ole Miss vs. Alabama game that might support the decision made by that replay official.

If the reason to overrule the on-field officiating decision was that good, the conference should be willing to show that evidence to the public.

And, that’s official

Al Graning writes a weekly column for The Democrat. He can be reached at AlanWard39157@aol.com.