SEC on move to 8-person officiating crew: 'It's a tougher game to officiate'

DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC will feature eight-person officiating crews -- adding a center judge -- on all nine of its crews in the upcoming football season.

SEC coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw explained the change at the conference's spring meetings on Thursday, noting that the positive results from its lone experimental eight-person crew last season prompted the SEC to go to eight leaguewide.

"I know the first question you're going to ask," Shaw said to reporters on Thursday afternoon. "'Good grief, now we've got an extra official. We're going to have more penalties, right? Just more penalties. That's all we're going to have.'

"Our goal is going to be preventive officiating, and all I can tell you is data from last season. We had nine crews last year and when you break it down to fouls per game, the crew that worked eight all year was dead in the middle. There were four crews that had more fouls per game, four crews that had less."

The new center judge will set up in the offensive backfield, opposite the referee, and will assist with spotting the ball and substitutions. The new official will also provide "an extra view of that quarterback, which is so important to us," Shaw said.

Shaw said that an NCAA rule change will allow for crews of five, six, seven or eight officials in a game. Prior to the new rule, crews could feature as few as four officials and could be as large as seven.

Matt Loeffler led the SEC's experimental eight-person crew last fall that prompted this season's expansion. The conference first shifted to seven-person crews in 1986, and Shaw said it was high time to add another official since the game has changed significantly since that time.

"In 1986, we still had teams running the wishbone. The veer was probably the most prevalent offense out there. Yes, the game has changed," Shaw said.

"Nobody had heard of the spread back then. Nobody thought to send five receivers out on a route. Well now, obviously we've got the spread, we've got tempo, people all over the field, and it's a tougher game to officiate."