Parity fills college football games

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who can figure out college football this season?

It all started with Appalachian State beating Michigan and semi-climaxed with Louisiana-Monroe beating Alabama last Saturday. That should say something to those critics who think the officials always favor Alabama.

The Alabama loss should not have come as a complete surprise to Tide fans.

Email newsletter signup

You will remember that Nick Saban lost to Alabama-Birmingham his first year at LSU. The Tigers then went on to win the National Championship two years later.

Louisiana-Monroe used to be Northeast Louisiana and also used to be the “Indians.” Political correctness turned them into the “Warhawks.”

For several years the Southeastern Conference assigned officials for Northeast’s games, and I once officiated a Northeast Louisiana game when they played Memphis State (whose games the SEC officiated for many years).

I remember one Northeast game when I looked up and there was Greg Fondren, a former Cathedral and Huntington player waving to me. Greg’s nephew now plays and stars for Cathedral. The faces may change over the years, but many of the names stay the same in small town sports.

There were a couple of officiating calls in Saturday night’s Southern Mississippi vs. UTEP (Texas El Paso, which used to be West Texas State) game that might need some explaining.

The first strange call was a defensive delay of game call against UTEP, a call that allowed USM to keep a scoring drive alive. Not having seen the game, I don’t know exactly what violation the officials called, but under NCAA Rule 3 Section 4 Article 2b, paragraph 4, it could have been “Defensive verbal tactics that disconcert offensive signals” or paragraph 5, which says, “Defensive actions designed to cause a false start.” In National Federation (high school) rules, both of those acts can be penalized as ‘unsportsmanlike conduct.’ The referee has very broad authority in high school games.

The second unusual call in the USM game came on the same drive and certainly led to the Golden Eagles’ first score. Facing a fourth down, Southern attempted a field goal. It was blocked by UTEP, but a USM player controlled the ball behind the neutral zone and advanced it past the first-down marker.

There was some confusion on the play, because one or more officials thought the ball had crossed the neutral zone prior to the player gaining possession. I again did not see the play, but the rule (NCAA Rule 6, Section 3, Article 1a) states, “A scrimmage kick that fails to cross the neutral zone continues in play. All players may catch or receive the ball behind the neutral zone and advance.”

If the scrimmage kick fails to cross the neutral zone, Team A (the kicking team) must advance to the ‘line to gain’ because the continuity of downs is not broken.

Congratulations to Trinity and Huntington for keeping their championship drives alive. I don’t know about Huntington, but in Trinity’s case it is very hard to beat a team twice in the same season.

Bill Hurst at Centreville will have his troops ready for the Saints. I’m sorry Ferriday saw an end to their perfect season. It would really be something if Huntington could step into Trinity’s shoes as MPSA Class A Champions and Trinity could sweep the Class AA Championship after moving up from Class A. Good luck to both squads.

And, That’s Official

Al Graning writes a weekly column for The Democrat. He can be reached at