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Monday, October 5, 2009

Redding Sees No Need to Tweek Celebration Rule

In the wake of the penalty called on A.J. Green for excessive celebration at the end of the game on Saturday, there has been a developing discussion about the issues of race as they relate to these penalties. While CBS's Tim Brando certainly didn't indict anyone, he did allude to the idea that the issue would blossom.

“They don't want us to go more in-depth on why the SEC is throwing more," Brando said following the game. "I am telling you, it is a conversation, I don’t want to have it, my friend Spencer does not want to have it, and I am telling you, watch out, because people are going to take a closer look at this and it is not going to bode well for the league.”

I generally try to keep my own opinion as analytical as possible, but for the sake of full disclosure, here's what I think:

I find it nearly impossible to believe that there is any direct racial discrimination happening here, but I also am worldly enough to know that we all bring our preconceived biases to the table in everything we do. This rule is interpretive by the officials, and as Rogers Redding told me today, that leaves a lot of room for criticism.

"The officials are called upon to try to draw the line between what’s allowable in terms of teenage enthusiasm and what is either demeaning to an opponent or casts a negative image on the game from a standpoint of a player singling himself out and drawing attention to himself after making a really great play or a routine play," Redding said.

So I'll ask you, does your background -- your opinions on things like tattoos and dreadlocks and dancing on the sidelines, your thoughts about how people talk and what type of music they listen to -- do those things affect how you might judge a person's actions?

None of these decisions are made in a vacuum, so while I don't believe for a second that there are nefarious motives here, the way the rule is written leaves the door open for many of our preconceived notions about other people to sneak into the decisions being made.

In fact, it's not a whole lot different than how many of you may read Reddings' comments differently because he's a Georgia Tech grad. Same words, different context.

With all of that said, I figured it was probably only fair to post the complete transcript of my conversation with Redding.

David Hale: After reviewing the film of the excessive celebration flags in the Georgia-LSU game, what did you see?

Rogers Redding: The first and the last one were fine. The one that followed the touchdown with a minute to go, we felt like after reviewing the video that the call should not have been made.

DH: Have you spoken with Mark Richt or any Georgia officials about the call?

RR: Any communication I have with the coaches remains confidential.

DH: OK, well the call is obviously something open to interpretation, and the reaction -- due to the timing of the call and the venue -- has been pretty outspoken that in this case it was a bad call. Some people even question if there are more nefarious issues at play when these calls are made. Given the great latitude in the interpretation of the rule and the blowback that can ensue in the wake of a call like this, is there a thought to reconsider the rule the way it is currently written?

RR: That is the question, and it’s one the rules committee struggled with for some time. Last year was an important time as far as last year’s meetings because the rules committee looked at a lot of video particularly around unsportsmanlike conduct from around the country, and put together a DVD that was set out to all the players and coaches and officials.

Basically they said we think the rule as written is fine, and we generally think that the way it’s being officiated is fine. That’s not to say there might not be times when the officials either don’t call what should have been called or call what shouldn’t have been called. But in general, there’s a very strong feeling on the rules committee that rules like this need to be in place, that the coaches should teach their players to have the discipline to maintain football as a team game and not set a self-congratulatory kind of example. In fact the committee added this year a statement to the rulebook addressing sportsmanship, saying essentially those kinds of things, that it was the coaches’ responsibility in particular around coaching players to have the discipline to maintain the team aspect of the game.

So I think from the rule’s committee’s standpoint, it’s not a controversial thing from a standpoint of how the rule is written and how it’s being enforced. Now the officials are called upon to try to draw the line between what’s allowable in terms of teenage enthusiasm and what is either demeaning to an opponent or casts a negative image on the game from a standpoint of a player singling himself out and drawing attention to himself after making a really great play or a routine play.

It’s a tough situation, but the officials – what we tell our officials is, ‘Don’t go looking for stuff, but if it’s there, call it. If it’s not, don’t create it.’ I think generally we do a really good job of that, but we’re going to miss this stuff much like we miss pass interference or holding. There’s always going to be judgment involved. You’re never going to get everything removed because the official has to make a decision in a very short period of time – what am I going to call this?”

DH: Obviously fans will be upset when a call goes against their team and you'll occasionally get conspiracy theories, but CBS's Tim Brando offered some criticism following the game that alluded to issues of race potentially overshadowing some of these calls. What is your reaction to that?

RR: Well, that’s just not something I’m going to respond to.

(NOTE: Redding had not initially heard Brando's comments, which I paraphrased for him prior to his answer.)

DH: Obviously the timing of this call made it bigger than it might have been at another point in the game and since it was a national TV game between two highly ranked teams, it drew a lot of criticism. How do you talk to your officials about handling a situation like this?

RR: The timing of it for us is not an issue. We continue to coach up our officials to be diligent about using good judgment about enforcing any rule, so there’s not anything special we’d say to our officials other than to just take this as a learning opportunity and try to be judicious in making your interpretations of what you see. There’s not a whole lot to be talked about from a standpoint of making this a special case.

DH: Just a point of clarification, too. Do the officials regularly offer informal warnings to players or coaches during a game before throwing a flag, just saying something to the effect of, 'Hey, you're getting awfully close to a penalty here' before actually enforcing it?

RR: Sometimes you get a sense of a team or a particular couple of players, and you’ll see officials jumping in after a play is over and trying to prevent that from happening. So there is some preventative officiating.

And finally, this statement released by UGA from Mark Richt today: “I did talk to Rogers Redding at the SEC office Monday and I appreciate him looking into the situation. But that game is behind us and all the attention now is preparing our team to play Tennessee.”

Oh, and one more thing from my editor, Daniel Shirley: "Kool and the Gang would be embarrassed that was called a Celebration."

He's old.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Well, that’s just not something I’m going to respond to."

Coward.

Texas_Dawg said...

Did anyone catch Kevin Butler going nuts on the radio after the game about how UGA should have just kicked it out of bounds so LSU would take it at the LSU 40 and fire Fabris and on and on as "greatest kicker ever!!" Kevin Butler likes to do...?

Well, he was entirely dead wrong (his being everyone's favorite unimpeachable outside expert on our kicking game not withstanding). LSU would have gotten the ball at the UGA 45 given the penalty.

Fire Kevin Butler. What a total clown that loser is.

Bernie said...

I've watched the SEC Wrap-up Show, more specifically Brando's diatribe, twice. It sounded to me like he actually did want to talk about it.

But I guess it is a stretch for a tv personality to pander for attention.

Back to your question: yes, I do make judgments about people...sometimes too quickly. But I also possess the power to call myself on it, many times as it is happening. I would like to think that SEC officials possess the same power. But as you've pointed out many times...the league, despite it's wealth and power, seems uncommitted to using professional, well-trained officials.

That...and Rogers Redding is a nerd. I'm not judging him...that's a fact.

David Hale said...

Texas -- you're right about the kickoff out of bounds and i'm sure the coaches knew that -- although the 45 would have still been better field position than where they ended up.

I think the bigger question still was: Why kick it down the middle of the field right to Holliday? At worst, squib kick it. Don't give the fastest guy on the field a chance to beat you.

And on top of that, the kicking from the huddle thing made no sense at that particular time in the game, and the result was confusion on the coverage team and a flag that gave LSU 5 more yards to work with.

Stu said...

"Sometimes you get a sense of a team or a particular couple of players, and you’ll see officials jumping in after a play is over and trying to prevent that from happening. So there is some preventative officiating."

Am I misreading this, or is Redding admitting that some teams get extra scrutiny from the officials? And what is this "sense" based on? Very disturbing.

Watson said...

Actually, the rule states you take the ball 30 yards from the kickoff point. So, do the math:

If you kick off from the 15 and kick it out of bounds, the ball would be placed at the UGA 45. But then add in the illegal formation penalty and now it's 1st and 10 at the UGA 40.

At least I think I'm interpreting this correctly (bottom of page 89): http://www.ncaapublications.com/Uploads/PDF/Football_Rulesadc982b5-03fb-4e27-828c-c2d26b95e6c1.pdf

Anonymous said...

Thanks David for the leg work on getting Mr. Redding. You do a great job.

Stu, you hit it:

"Sometimes you get a sense of a team or a particular couple of players, and you’ll see officials jumping in after a play is over and trying to prevent that from happening. So there is some preventative officiating."

This is exectly the passive / aggressive response I expected.

Let's define this one more clearly.

"Sense of a team" = Any team standing in the way of a big SEC payday.

This week it is Georgia, standing in the way of a potential #1 vs. #4 TV matchup.

The rest of the year it will be anyone who challenges Alabama or Florida for a spot in the BCS championship game payout. Or anyone who challenges LSU, if it somehow stays undefeated.

It is not just the SEC. Take a look at the Notre Dame game this week or the officiating in any NBA playoff series which doesn't appear to be going seven games.

"Particular couple of players" = Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, David Pollock, or any protected player hyped to be the "face of the league" for a particular year.

You can call it the Michael Jordan rule.

Silver Dawg said...

The past two days have left me talked out, emailed out, and exhausted.

Rolling Rock anyone?

Anonymous said...

Great blog as usual David. In a way, I'm glad you've spoiled all of us readers/followers.

I still believe as long as Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Les Miles coach at their respective schools, CMR will always, as they say around these parts, "be suckin' hind teat".

Rex Robinson makes an excellent, valid point.

The only school in the country to have a top 10 recruiting class every year since 2002...hmmm.

smokin' joe said...

David, why don't you ask him why so many people with Georgia Tech connections (plus Al Ford) have to work a UGA game? Especially of this importance.

He may not like the question. But it is a legitimate one. Because if you think Florida would allow an FSU guy and a crew with FSU ties to do a Florida game, you are kidding yourself.