SEC refs suspended for fumble call

ATLANTA -- The SEC officiating crew that missed a crucial call in the Georgia-Georgia Tech game has been suspended by the conference.

The seven-man crew, rated the best in the SEC, ruled that Georgia's Jasper Sanks fumbled at the 1-yard line in the final seconds of the game Saturday. Television replays showed that the ball popped out after Sanks hit the ground.

The score was 48-48 when the ball was awarded to Tech. The Yellow Jackets won 51-48 in overtime.

The suspension means the officials will not work the SEC title game between Florida and Alabama. Several of the officials involved also will lose their postseason assignments. SEC officials have not said if the men could be fired.

Saturday's officiating crew included Al Ford of Florence, Ala.; Bud Williams of Tallahassee, Fla.; Ron Leatherwood of Waynesville, N.C.; Al Matthews of Duluth; Blake Parks of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Ben Oldham of Lexington, Ky.; and Toby Silberman of Lookout Mountain, Tenn.

Ford defended the call after the game, saying two of his officials saw the ball come loose before Sanks was down.

But he said Monday that Williams missed the call.

"I have seen the game and play since then, and at full-speed it's close," Ford said. "It is a bang-bang play, but when you slow it down, no one I have heard or seen has said it would be a fumble. It isn't a no-brainer though."

On Sunday, Bobby Gaston, the SEC supervisor of football officials, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the officials were wrong.

Suspending officials, particularly an entire crew, is unusual. Earlier this season, the ACC suspended a crew for one game for incorrectly marking off the yardage on a penalty and for allowing the 25-second clock to expire without calling a penalty.

The TimesDaily in Florence, Ala., reported Wednesday that the decision to suspend the crew was made by SEC commissioner Roy Kramer after a phone call from Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley.

"The conference office will not comment on that issue or any other issue related to personnel decisions," Kramer told the newspaper Tuesday night.

This article from: