SEC media days: Coordinator of officials says 'healthy' debate over pace of play needed

jmedley@annistonstar.comJuly 16, 2014 

HOOVER, Ala. — SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said Wednesday that “a healthy debate” over the pace of play needs to happen. For now, officials around the country have made point of emphasis in getting their mechanics consistent in handling pace offenses.

To that end, conference coordinators of officials got together over the summer and established a ‘crisp jog’ between plays.

“The rule today says, when the ball is ready, the offense can snap it,” Shaw said during his appearance at SEC media days. “So here is what we’re telling nationally to all our officials. ... What we’re saying is when the play is dead, the umpire or the person spotting the ball, you will not walk, and you will not sprint. We’re calling it a ‘crisp jog.’

“We’re trying to get all of our umpires on the same page on a crisp jog.”

A healthy debate occurred during the offseason when NCAA rules makers, with an assist from Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, proposed a rule where offenses could not snap before 10 seconds had elapsed on the play clock.

Proponents couched it as a player-safety matter, which is required for a major rules change in the off year of a two-year rules cycle.

Coaches who run pace offenses around college football — and there lots of them — made noise and got the rule tabled.

For the time being, conference coordinators are looking at ways to improve their handling of pace offenses.

In a somewhat related change, the SEC will experiment with one crew having an eighth official all season. The eighth official on that crew will be the “center judge” and will spot the ball and interact with the referee on substitutions.

Shaw the eighth official is about officiating better, in particular getting the presnap routine right.

Other rule changes

There were off-year player-safety tweaks.

They are as follows:

  • In a wording change to the targeting foul, no player shall target and initiate to make “forcible” contact. Also, if video overturns a targeting foul — and targeting is the only foul on the play — there will be no 15-yard penalty. Other judgment calls on the play, like roughing the passer, will not be reviewed.
  • When a player is in a passing posture, no unabated rusher can hit him at the knee or below. There’s no foul if a player is blocked into the quarterback.
  • Intentional grounding from the end zone is now reviewable.
  • Catch or recovery of a loose ball is reviewable.
  • A player has to establish himself inbounds before jumping to make a catch, not just land inbounds.

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