HOOVER — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey spoke on a wide variety of topics to kick off the league’s annual Media Days on Monday.
The majority of his comments dealt with officiating, an issue that was brought to the forefront during the 2018 season after the SEC received negative publicity, primarily through social media, following disputed calls.
One particular call indirectly involved Alabama. A week before LSU face the Crimson Tide, LSU’s Devin White was called for targeting against Mississippi State, which made him ineligible for the first half against UA.
That prompted political analyst James Carville, an LSU alum, to comment the SEC’s bias toward Alabama.
“I hadn’t heard about that controversy,” Sankey joked. “The reality of targeting is it’s a well-intended rule that is difficult o officiate and controversial even when applied correctly, which we communicated on that play that it was in fact applied correctly.”
The SEC hired the services of a consulting firm to conduct an external review of the league’s officiating staff during the offseason. Sankey said the firm was asked to look at three specific areas – stakeholder interviews, data analytics, and policy comparison.
“When our policies were compared with others we compared favorably,” Sankey said. “The feedback from those interviews indicates SEC officials are perceived to better manage the game compared to their peers.
“Third, our coaches, athletic directors and our officials expressed trust and confidence in the leadership of the SEC office in supporting the highest quality officiating program.”
The replay process will have a new addition this year with a collaborative sideline monitor. The extra official will serve as a liaison between the replay crew and the head coach and can give details into the decision-making process. Sankey said the monitor will also “allow the on the field officials to review the play and communicate with the in-stadium replay booth and replay officials in the conference video center.”
The point Sankey was trying to convey Monday was the SEC takes officiating seriously and has taken steps to ensure quality calls.
The SEC has also borrowed a page from the NFL and will have officiating experts available in the broadcast booth to share their opinions on calls made during the game.
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