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South Carolina AD Ray Tanner speaks on SEC officiating

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He didn’t say much and the SEC said even less, but well, here we are.

Here’s a vintage photo of Tanner yelling at an ump, because it felt appropriate.
Gerry Melendez/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In case you missed it, the SEC league office, by way of Commissioner Greg Sankey, issued a statement yesterday addressing the, ah, questionable officiating that took place this past weekend in the Florida-South Carolina and Alabama-Tennessee games, which both featured unranked squads mounting upset bids against top-10 teams.

To save you a click and roughly 10 minutes of your life that you can’t get back, absolutely nothing of value was shared, and indeed, the games in question weren’t even specifically named. It’s impressive, actually, that so much (figurative) ink was spilled for the SEC to simply say that it is going to do things the way it always has — e.g. with a total lack of transparency — and include a thinly-veiled threat for conference members who might dare to disagree.

Enter South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, who spoke at length about the statement — but also didn’t manage to say overly much, I suppose out of fear of reprisal. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Tanner opened with praise of Sankey’s leadership, but was quick to clarify his feelings on the matter: “Now, that being said, it doesn’t take away from our frustration and disappointment, when we have a head coach and assistant coaches and players that are giving it their all. And there’s some things that happen that really give you great concern, and that emotional, and that’s where I’ve been.”
  • Tanner would like more transparency from the conference, but also agrees that publicly naming and shaming referees is problematic, so he’s largely fine with the SEC continuing to keep that in-house: “I don’t believe in the personal exposure, you know. ... These officials aren’t trying to make mistakes, they’re trying to do the very best they can. It is tough. There’s some tremendous athletes running around on the field that it makes it pretty difficult to be an umpire or an official, a referee. I get that part, but I would like to see, you know, some more public sharing of information, if you will, but it does get dicey.”
  • Tanner spitballed a bit on the idea of changing or updating the officiating process: “We’ve evolved. You know, things have changed in athletics in general, (in) college athletics. Bigger, faster, stronger, a lot of things have happened. Have we evolved enough from the officiating side? Do we need another official, do we need an official in the booth? Do we need another opportunity for coaches to question the call, more questionable calls? We have the technology to do it. Maybe we need to do more to get games right.”
  • Tanner has apparently spoken to both Sankey and Steve Shaw, head of officials, multiple times since last Saturday, but of course can’t share the details of those conversations.

It’s honestly hard to say whether Gamecock fans should feel better or worse about this. Nothing can change the outcome of the Florida game, but the SEC’s toothless and oddly passive-aggressive statement — coming four days later, on top of it all — certainly pours some salt in the wound. It was nice to see Tanner open up a bit about his personal feelings on the matter, but he’s also hamstrung by the SEC bylaws that prevent him from getting to the heart of it. Realistically — and unfortunately — I’m not sure how much more we could’ve expected.

So closes another ignoble chapter of atrocious SEC officiating, I guess. Until next time, everyone!