The SEC is The New WWF
By Chris Warner
The SEC Riviera Roundup
November 26, 2014
*This edition of the SEC Riviera Roundup is a departure from its normal format. Also, it is forewarned that it contains disturbing truths about your conference, information the powers that be would rather not acknowledge, and certainly not debate. The SEC is in peril, its credibility as a conference at stake.
The SEC is the new WWF, and it has Alabama to thank for it. Biased officiating and leadership have so tainted the league, so marred its recent progress and accomplishment in the realm of college football, that the conference is now the equivalent of pro wrestling for the proclaimed Southern elite. Such is the state of college football in the nation’s toughest conference. The head of SEC officials (referees) is Steve Shaw, an unabashed Alabama graduate. Alabama has been the least penalized team in the SEC five of the last six years and during that same span has had the easiest Western Division schedule. Moreover, did you know the SEC website does not list penalties in its statistics section?
These are facts all ticket-purchasing Southeastern Conference football fans should know as the league prepares to hire a new commissioner, because the current conference leadership is essentially a cartel, one bent on ensuring continued Alabama dominance, despite its stated intentions.
The Southeastern Conference Mission Statement
“The purpose of the Southeastern Conference is to assist its member institutions in the maintenance of programs of intercollegiate athletics which are compatible with the highest standards of education and competitive sports.”
A History of Corruption
The State of Alabama has a history of corruption. One need not peruse history books to read of the transgressions of George Wallace and his dubious gubernatorial successors. Recently, the Alabama Speaker of the House, arguably the state’s most powerful political figure, Mike Hubbard, was indicted on 23 separate corruption counts. Just weeks later, he was re-elected in his house district by constituents, and subsequently re-elected by his peers as leader of the body politic. Corruption and Alabama are synonymous. Derided incessantly by onlookers, for years their helpless defense has been, “But we aren’t as bad as Louisiana.” Of course, the SEC offices aren’t in Bogalusa—they’re in Birmingham.
Here is a link regarding Hubbard’s alleged crimes: http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/10/mike_hubbard_indicted.html
If you are an avid fan of Southeastern Conference football and own a high-definition television with DVR capability, you have undoubtedly over the past few years witnessed repeatedly the shameless transgressions of SEC officials who call Alabama Crimson Tide football games. Gratuitous ball spots, regular no-calls, picked up yellow flags without explanation and timely video replay reversals are the norm in Alabama football games. We have all seen them. The fact that the SEC athletic directors and presidents are silent about them, however, is most alarming. Life is so good inside their gilded, ivory towers that reticence must be their walking orders to maintain the status quo. Paying fans, however—especially those season ticket holders whose escalating opportunity costs come at a great price to their deserving families—should be incensed; and they should be heard loud and clear:
“Abolish every objectionable feature of conference play; ensure objectivity and fairness for the players, or we will give up our tickets.”
Understand that the conference brass will not speak out—it will take the fans to change the bias that exists within the conference. The league has 14 teams—not one. The only way to have Mike Slive and Steve Shaw replaced with good actors is to have an outcry among the paying fans—the very people who enable the system with their hard-earned money. Continued silence will result in continued bias.
Former NFL Referee Mike Pereira, Steve Shaw and the Gulf Coast Athletic Club
I am a member of the Gulf Coast Athletic Club. We meet every two weeks during the fall in Gulf Shores, Alabama and entertain some of the Deep South’s most recognizable coaches, former players and opinion makers as guest speakers. Last fall we were visited by Steve Shaw, head of SEC officials.
Shaw began by saying that he attended the University of Alabama during the glory days of Bear Bryant. He explained that he and Mike Slive hire all 63 officials who comprise the nine groups of seven who call all the Southeastern Conference games during the season. He related that it is an important rule that no SEC official who graduated from an SEC school can call a game involving that school. He then proceeded to tell a story about how he was the head official for the crew that called the Alabama-Tennessee game years before—the one where Alabama native Condoleezza Rice flipped the coin prior to the game, immediately calling into question the veracity of his prior statement. Shaw described in vivid detail how Secretary of State Rice “flipped” the coin and that it actually didn’t flip, landing on heads—in favor of Alabama. He hesitated, he said, knowing that it should have been re-flipped, as it technically never tumbled end over end. However, he said he noticed the many secret service agents in attendance and decided against it, announcing instead, “Alabama wins the toss!” This was not the most interesting part of his address, however.
Shaw revealed that the SEC offices now have within their grasp what he called an “SEC Command Center,” a brand new facility equipped with many satellites and televisions capable of watching in real-time every game being called by SEC officials. Shaw explained that he and Slive sit inside this facility on weekends and monitor the calls of every game to ensure that they are being properly officiated and so that they can ensure that social media problems don’t occur in the event of bad calls. The problem with this scenario is that it is illegal for Slive or Shaw to intervene during any game and comment on a particular call, as all league officials during games are to only confer among each other, or in the instance of a video replay, with the replay official in the sky. This is the root of the problem.
Mike Pereira, a former NFL referee, Senior Director of Officials and Vice President of NFL officials, attended the Alabama-Tennessee game earlier this year. In that contest he witnessed first-hand that officials were speaking to someone through an outfitted device. He surmised that the “mystery man” they spoke to was not the SEC replay official, as the calls in question did not involve video replay. He asserted strongly in public comments that this was illegal and that the SEC was in jeopardy of losing credibility as a result. Who exactly was this mystery man he alleged was talking in real-time to SEC officials? Could it possibly have been their bosses—the ones in the SEC “Command Center” that Shaw spoke of? Subsequent to these allegations the league offices issued a staunch denial of Pereira’s assertions.
“Mike Pereira’s comments are erroneous and without merit. All officiating decisions in the SEC, other than a replay timeout, are made on the field of play, and any accusations to the contrary are unfounded and irresponsible.”
Here are two interesting references to Pereira’s related claims:
Here is an interesting, related column by Nola.com’s Ron Higgins:
The SEC’s Least-Penalized Team
The fact that Alabama has been the least penalized league team five of the past six seasons is alarming. Anyone who understands statistics knows that the probability of this happening is one over an extremely large number. During the last two years that denominator has increased, as the league took on two new teams. If the SEC comprises schools that purport to be institutions of higher learning, then there is no reason for the head of SEC officials to be an Alabama graduate.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is resigning next year and will be replaced by recommendation of the executive committee. The 14 school presidents will then either accept or deny the suggestion. It is time for change in the SEC. It is time for the conference leadership to live up to its lofty, stated intentions of ensuring play compatible with the highest standards of education and competitive sports. Whether or not this occurs moving forward will be determined not by the powers that be, but by the paying fans, as procedural change is never neutral, and there are many historical and political impediments in place to ensure the continuance of the unhealthy status quo by the powers that be. Anything less than wholesale changes eliminating the Alabama dominance of the league offices and referee membership would be, well, uncivilized.
*Chris Warner is a double graduate of LSU and holds a doctorate from the University of New Orleans. The author of over twenty titles, including “A Tailgater’s Guide to SEC Football, Vol. IV,” and “Bushwhacked at the Flora-Bama,” he lives in Perdido Key, Florida. Visit his website: http://www.southernbeachreads.com