30 October 2009
With full approval from the league's presidents and athletic directors, the Southeastern Conference this morning announced that coaches who publicly complain about refereeing will face stiff penalties. The move comes the week after Dan Mullen of Mississippi State, Ed Orgeron of Tennessee, and most notably, Tennessee's Head Coach Lane Kiffin, all complained about the refereeing in their games last Saturday.
The reason I say "most notably" about Kiffin is that he went way way overboard. Let me explain why I think that way.
(1) The rule against coaches criticizing referees is an excellent rule. Referees are in a difficult position to start with, working in front of tens of thousands of partisan fans, many of whom have had some liquid refreshments, sometimes by the barrelful. Coaches should behave like adults, with concern for those men's safety, and do NOTHING WHATSOVER to encourage fans to take it out on the refs. The refs should be strictly evaluated behind the scenes by their employers, and disciplined privately when necessary.
(2) Specifically as to the Alabama-Tennessee game, I have seen a couple of analyses (including a brilliant piece of work by our very own Ell) indicating that each penalty against Tennessee was appropriate, and in fact the most blatant penalty that was not called was pass interference by Tennessee against Julio Jones in the end zone in the second quarter. Cody taking his helmet off WOULD HAVE been a penalty, but since that was the last play of the game and celebration penalties are assessed on the next play, that was actually not a penalty by rule. The last play of the game is only re-played when there is a live ball penalty, which, by rule, the celebration penalty is not.
(3) The worst thing Kiffin said was that little shot about the "magic flag," which implies that there is some kind of conspiracy against his team to throw the game. That is just way way way way way over the line, it encourages the wackiest of the wacky - which, believe me, applies to lots and lots of football fans in the Southeast, and these people should NEVER be encouraged - and by the way, it is total, complete and utter BS.
(4) I'm usually not a big supporter of applying harsh penalties to people who say something a little wrong at an emotional moment, but (1) what Kiffin said was more than a little wrong, and (2) he's done it before, more than once, and it looks like an intentional pattern, not an emotional slip-up. I would pull out the big whuppin stick on him if he does it again.
Even though I bleed crimson and white when I get stuck, I'm not a Tennessee-hater like a lot of Alabama fans and I have supported coaches from other teams in situations that are similar (except for the things I've pointed out that make Kiffin's transgressions worse). For example, I defend Fulmer from the names that get slung at him because he turned Alabama in to the NCAA. If it was an Alabama coach, I would prefer that he not do something like that, but it's just a tough call and he was in a difficult situation, so I'm not going to condemn Fulmer for what he did.
In other words, I'm not just beating on Tennessee for the fun of beating on Tennessee. I'm beating on Kiffin because he did something very wrong.
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