Public discipline of college FB officials is rare

NEW YORK -- Against the backdrop of the Southeastern Conference and Pac-10 suspending officials who made high-profile mistakes, the national coordinator of college officials says he generally dislikes such public discipline.

But David Parry also understands the pressure that bad calls can create.

"There are circumstances where sometimes the conference is backed into a corner and the best way to put out the fire is to publicly acknowledge they took steps to discipline an official," Parry said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Last week, a Southeastern Conference officiating crew was suspended after it called penalties the league said were not supported by video evidence in the LSU-Georgia game on Oct. 3 and the Arkansas-Florida game on Oct. 17.

On Tuesday, the Pac-10 announced it suspended a game official for missing a facemask penalty in the Oregon State-Southern California game last weekend.

In both cases, the names of the officials were not released by the conferences. But officials' names are generally provided to the media covering games.

Officials are evaluated by their conferences every week and it is not uncommon for them to be penalized for poor performances, Parry said. But usually the punishment is doled out behind close doors and not announced to the media.

"They are held accountable," said Parry, who was Big Ten coordinator of football officials for 19 years before being hired by the NCAA as the first national coordinator in 2007.

Postseason assignments are largely based on how officials grade-out during the regular season. The officials with the best grades get the best assignments -- such as BCS games -- and the worst might not work any postseason games.

Parry said a few high-profile mistakes can overshadow good work done by officials.

"But if you have one or two game-breakers, the league, the crew, the staff, the whole conference gets painted with a broad brush, 'What's wrong with the officiating," he said.

"There's little bit of unfairness here."

In the SEC, the first blown call was against Georgia receiver A.J. Green, who was flagged for unsportmanlike conduct for excessive celebration after scoring a touchdown to put the Bulldogs ahead late in the game against LSU.

The 15-yard penalty was assessed on the kickoff and the additional yardage helped LSU score the eventual winning touchdown in the final minute.

In the Arkansas-Florida game, Razorbacks defensive lineman Malcolm Sheppard was inappropriately penalized 15 yards for a personal foul during a Gators touchdown drive.

In the Pac-10 on Saturday, USC safety Taylor Mays pulled the helmet off Oregon State receiver James Rodgers after he caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, but no flag was thrown.

"The nature of the incident was to the point of being so blatant and in fact so dangerous that it warranted a suspension," Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday in a phone interview.

"If something rises to the level of an official needing to be suspended it should be done with transparency and some degree of accountability.

"My responsibility is to the overall integrity of the competition in the conference. For the integrity and reputation of the conference, we needed to be seen as taking strong action."

Public suspensions do get people's attention, Parry said.

"It would be safe to say at times, though rare and with a lot of reluctance, a commissioner and a coordinator do take time to send a message to the public and the staff that their is standard to be reached and if it is not reached there will be ramifications," he said.