OU fans have become increasingly miffed about Big 12 officiating, and some believe the move to the SEC is going to eliminate that problem. Yeah, right.
NORMAN — As Oklahoma lined up for the extra point after Drake Stoops’ long touchdown catch Saturday night, a chant bubbled around Owen Field.
Not “Boomer!” and “Sooner!”
Rather, “S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!”
Sooner fans, apparently, were angry that Stoops was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he spiked the football in celebration of his touchdown. I’ll be the first to say, I love touchdown celebrations. Spontaneous ones. Choreographed ones. They’re fun, and sports need as much fun as possible. But if you spike a football in college football, it’s going to draw a flag. That’s automatic.
But apparently, OU fans were mightily miffed about Big 12 officiating — some have even lost their minds and ascribed to the conspiracy theory that the fix is in, from commission Brett Yormark’s office on down — and believe that the Sooners’ move to the SEC is going to eliminate that problem.
No more bad calls, no more hacks, no more Yormark’s dirty looks.
First of all, we don’t know how Big 12 officials stack up to officials in the SEC or any other conference. Transparency is frankly abysmal in college football officiating. We don’t often hear from league leaders when officials make mistakes (and of course, they do make them). We never hear from the officials themselves.
If a 19-year-old college player has to answer questions from reporters after dropping a sure touchdown pass, shouldn’t a middle-aged official have to answer tough questions after a blown call, too?
A few years ago, the SEC talked about being more transparent when it came to football officiating. The league did so after a (gasp!) spate of controversial calls during the 2018 season sparked outrage. There was talk of real-time explanations of calls on the SEC’s social-media channels provided by respected, outside experts as well as a rules expert in the broadcast booth for every SEC game.
The SEC started a Twitter account, @SECOfficiating. While there was some real-time analysis early on, the account now consists largely of a weekly rules review video featuring NCAA national coordinator of officials Steve Shaw.
The SEC did add rules experts to game broadcasts, including Gene Steratore on CBS games.
That hasn’t eliminated controversy.
A quick check of social media showed that plenty of fans in the SEC don’t think all that highly of their officials. A sampling of the messages directed at SEC commissioner Greg Sankey over the past couple of weeks:
From @jason_sprung: When are you planning on firing your SEC referee staff? Because they all suck this year!
From @gorton_jr: The SEC, its referees and replay officials are so corrupt and biased, it is ridiculous.
From @SkinnyBones205: Y’all need to do something about the referees. They are acting like they are some idiots. I’ve never seen some referees make as many bad calls as they have.
From @AaronReed10: We had to beat Florida and the referees. We should get two wins for that.
From @catlynn278: Enough is enough with your referees doing such stupid stuff! Is so embarrassing and pathetic.
Near as I can tell, those fine folks are fans of Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina. So the complaints aren’t just coming from fans of one or two schools. They’re coming from all over the conference.
About the only thing that’s consistent besides fans thinking SEC officials stink is that most believe the conference is biased toward Alabama and Georgia. Case in point: When Dan Harralson, managing editor of Vols Wire, reported on Twitter that former Alabama quarterback David Smith was listed as the referee for the Tennessee-Missouri game on Saturday, the hue and cry was immediate.
“Is anyone surprised they’re stacking the deck against Tennessee?” one Vols fan replied. “If Georgia happens to lose, they don’t want Tennessee in the SEC title game.”
“Another @GregSankey special,” another replied. “This conference really hates us, man.”
“Listen, they have already fully rigged a win,” yet another wrote. “Unless big voices like (Tennessee athletic director Danny White) are willing to be vocal about the corruption, the SEC will stay BS.”
OK, not exactly sure what it means to “stay BS,” but I think you get the tin-foil-hat gist.
Listen, I’m not saying OU fans don’t have the right to be salty about some officiating calls lately.
I thought the most egregious over the past couple of weeks was West Virginia safety Anthony Wilson not getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting. He didn’t just stand over Drake Stoops after hitting him as he caught a touchdown pass; Wilson stepped back over Stoops to look down over him.
Then again, Sooner defensive end Ethan Downs didn’t get a taunting penalty in the Texas game on a violation that I thought was every bit as obvious as Wilson’s.
Ross Dellenger, the college football writer who’s now with Yahoo Sports, once wrote that a good game for an officiating crew could include as many as a half dozen mistakes. That’s the standard in the NFL, football’s highest level, so it only figures college officials would have at least that many flubs in a game.
Here’s the bottom line: every team is the victim of bad calls, no calls and missed calls from time to time.
Moving to the SEC isn’t going to change that.
But I’ll say this for the officiating conspiracy theorists among the crimson-and-cream faithful — it looks like you’ll have plenty of company in the SEC.