Home Pro Pace Cited: SEC Experiments with Eight Football Officials

Pace Cited: SEC Experiments with Eight Football Officials


In soccer there’s diving, where a player falls to ground and rolls around in excruciating pain after an opponent merely breathes in his vicinity.

In pro basketball it’s “the flop,” a move that sees a player tumble to the court in hopes of drawing a foul (even though he was never touched).

And up tempo college football has given rise to the “60-second cramp,” a malady that causes players to crash to the turf when opposing offenses start to run them ragged. Once the athlete reaches the sidelines, however, the cramp magically eases and he is back at 100 percent.

Some soccer officials keep a closer eye on diving and issue yellow cards for the offense, while NBA players get teed-up when the ref sees them faking it.

There’s still no cure for the 60-second cramp, but football officials are starting to realize gas-and-pass offenses might just be here to stay and they, themselves, must adapt to the speed and pace.

To that end, the SEC will be experimenting with 8-man officiating crews this season.

“I’m interested to see how it goes,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said on Thursday. “When it comes to tempo, I believe before the ball is snapped, everybody needs to be in position to play. Offensive player, defensive player, every official needs to be where they need to be. There were times (in past seasons) when the ball was snapped, an official was scrambling to get where they needed to get … times where defenders were scrambling to get to where they needed to get.”

The NCAA is allowing all Football Bowl Subdivision conferences to use 8-man crews if they so choose.

The Big Ten and Big 12 will feature them in all conference games, while the SEC will have just one 8-man crew that will, at some point, work all games involving league teams.

Seven-man crews will remain the standard, however, at least for the balance of the 2014 campaign.

SEC supervisor of officials Steve Shaw said earlier in the week that league officials want to see how it goes before completely signing off on the increase.

“In the SEC, we are selecting one of our crews, they’re going to work with the eighth official all year,” Shaw said. “When we met with the ADs, they want to ensure that this official saw every crew all year so we could have good feedback on it to see if this is a direction we ultimately want to go. The intent of the eighth official is not to go faster, not to go slower, but to help our guys officiate the game better.”

Maybe that’s not the intent but it certainly should be a nice by product.

Remember, some coaches have proposed a 10-second substitution rule that would’ve effectively put the brakes on teams that prefer to blend one down into the next. Now everyone will see if an extra pair of eyes can help fast offenses stay fast while making sure the defenses have the opportunity to make proper substitutions.

“You can have up to five receivers in a route and many times we get that,” Shaw explained. “If you think about our officials, we have three deep, two wing officials, all have keys on these receivers. If they go out, they’re occupied with their key, that leaves the referee and umpire to handle all the other stuff in the middle. That’s a tall order.”

Shaw of course makes a point of mentioning up tempo attacks, but insists the top priority is just having a better-officiated game.

“Now with our up tempo teams, the umpire and the wing officials are not able to get their pre-snap routine,” he said. “Our umpire is to count the offense, recognize the offensive formation, and then pick his keys from that offensive line and anticipate what’s getting ready to happen.

“Now a lot of times when we have substitutions, the umpire is having to stay at the ball, he can’t do his pre-snap routine. So the eighth official is to help us officiate better.”

It’s probably a safe assumption that the 8-man crews will be standard by 2015, in the SEC and everywhere else.

The result should be better officiated contests – although those pesky 60-second cramps will remain a problem.

“I think everybody needs to be in position to play football when the ball is snapped,” Richt said. “But in doing so, I don’t think it’s going to slow down the tempo much at all.”

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Anderson Independent-Mail.


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