SEC decides not to suspend Quinton Dial

After further review, the SEC has decided not to punish Alabama defensive end Quinton Dial for his hit on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in this year's SEC championship game.

This means that the SEC has decided not to suspend Dial for Alabama's meeting with Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, but any action Alabama wants to take is fine with the league.

Here's the official statement from the SEC:

"The Southeastern Conference has completed its review of video from the 2012 SEC Football Championship Game. Several plays involving both teams were reviewed. After review, all subsequent action will be handled internally by the two institutions and the conference office is satisfied with their actions.”

Really, the main play in question was Dial's nasty hit on what appeared to be a very defenseless Murray during an interception return by Alabama safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix in the first half. The hit appeared to be helmet-to-helmet, but no flag was thrown. Murray stumbled to his feet after the play, but later said that he only had the wind knocked out of him.

Earlier this month, SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw told Al.com that Dial should have been penalized for his hit on Murray and that the officials "missed the call."

Here's a little of what Shaw told Al.com about reviewing the hit:

"By rule, you can't hit a defenseless player above the shoulders. What the determination needs to be is was this a defenseless player and was contact initiated above the shoulders? When we go through video review of it, that's what we'll have to determine. And then you as you break it down, did he lead with the head or lead with the shoulder? From game action, it was a personal foul regardless of how we break it down frame by frame."

This isn't the first time the league has had to deal with a hit like this. Ole Miss safety Trae Elston was suspended for the Texas game after he hit defenseless UTEP wide receiver Jordan Leslie the week prior. Like Dial, Elston wasn't flagged on the play.

The SEC ruled Elston's hit was in violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA rulebook, which reads:

"No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder."

Rule 9-1-3 also states:

"No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet."

South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger was also suspended by the SEC for a game for his hit on UAB's Patrick Hearn. Swearinger was actually flagged for the play because his helmet hit Hearn's face mask after he launched himself into Hearn.

But the league didn't suspend Vanderbilt's Andre Hal at the beginning of the season after he was flagged for launching into South Carolina tight end Justice Cunningham, causing Cunningham's helmet to fly off.

When it comes to this issue, it's all about consistency and I'm not sure the league is consistent right now. Say what you will about Murray turning into a defender on the play, but he was as defenseless as ever when Dial laid that vicious hit on him. A flag should have been thrown. We saw consistency with Swearinger being suspended after Elston, but not with Dial's hit.

Just like the officials, the league missed this one.