By now everyone knows exactly what transpired on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium around the 5:30 p.m. mark.
No, it is not when they decided to turn the air conditioning in the press box to sub zero, but it is when Memphis redshirt senior wide receiver Calvin Austin III picked up a ball that had been signaled dead and ran 94 yards to the end zone to take what little wind that was in the sails of the Mississippi State University football team right out of them.
This is not, however, about the legality of that play, or even the following onside kick review in which the officials determined that they were wrong about the original call, but decided they would find another penalty within the review to make up for it. No, this is about the SEC and their blatant failure to enact their own rules, and its ability (or lack thereof) as a governing body to even hold its employees (the referees) accountable.
After the game on Saturday, the SEC Officiating Twitter account released a statement stating this:
"On the play, the back judge gave a single 'stop the clock' signal immediately after the receiving team possessed the ball. The inadvertent signal aspect of the play is reviewable and replay should have stopped the game to review for a potential inadvertent signal. The subsequent review would have placed the ball at the spot the signal was made. On the same play, two Memphis players were wearing No. 4, which is a violation and should have resulted in a five yard penalty on Memphis."
To put it in layman's terms: "We goofed, sorry, you still lose."
So what happens when these referees mess up this badly? What is the punishment? Where is the accountability? The answer is nowhere.
The head referee of the game, Mark Curles, has done this before. This isn't his first rodeo. His crew, though, was the first crew that the SEC publicly announced suspensions for back in 2009, following another egregious error.
Now, think about this, if I were to completely miss my deadline and cause the paper you're reading to not be printed, I would be lucky to have a job after that. If I did manage to have a job after that and I did it again, I would definitely be fired.
I say this to reiterate that if someone is in a position of power in a sport or profession which carries so much weight, not only in terms of school pride and wins and losses, but also monetarily, how can the SEC just let this slide, especially after multiple occurrences?
The answer is simple. They don't care. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is too worried about the next ESPN deal to even think about holding referees accountable. He's so unconcerned with it, he has someone do it for him. John McDaid is the name of that someone, and his official title is "Coordinator of Football Officials."
He is a Harvard graduate, and according to the SEC's website, has "worked professionally in positions of identifying, designing, capturing, engineering, and delivering high technology solutions for government and commercial customers." That is all great. He seems like a great man, but he was also an official for more than three decades, and if you know anything about officials, you know they stick together.
What Sankey has done is let the zebra shepherd the herd, and as evidenced by the Memphis screwjob that occurred over this past weekend, he's doing a real fine job of it, huh?
Until someone is put in charge of the officials in the SEC that will hold them accountable for making the mistakes that they do with all of the best available equipment that money can buy, instances like this will still happen. There will be no punishment, and there will continue to be no improvement.
I'll leave you with this; what does it really mean, Sankey? Because from where I'm sitting, it doesn't look like "more" is the answer.