Judgement may fall on non-BCS refs

Published: Monday, January 16, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
The American Football Coaches Association emptied out of the Anatole Hotel a few days ago after its annual convention without formally pursuing changes to the way that game officials are assigned to NCAA Division I-A bowls. That doesn't mean member conferences or their schools soon won't raise a question.
"It might have already been asked," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said.
The specific issue is whether officials from the five conferences that aren't affiliated with the Bowl Championship Series should work bowls that match opponents from two of the six BCS leagues, which includes the Big 12 Conference. Those bowls, including the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, usually feature the highest-profile matchups outside the four-bowl championship rotation.
Michigan officials were upset about the Sun Belt Conference crew that worked their MasterCard Alamo Bowl loss to Nebraska.
After Florida's seven-point win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl, the head of officiating for Conference USA admitted his crew made a controversial mistake in the closing minutes.
Most of the complaints dealt with instant replay. The Sun Belt was one of two Division I-A conferences not to use replay during the season.
Dennis Poppe, the NCAA's managing director for football, said during the AFCA convention that the issue probably will be raised in upcoming meetings that involve all of the conferences. He questioned how the system could be changed to satisfy critics; that presumably would mean either using more officials from each BCS league or having the same number of BCS officials work multiple games instead of one.
Bobby Gaston, director of officiating for the Southeastern Conference, said non-BCS leagues often are feeders for crews in BCS leagues.
He said most BCS conferences would express concern for using game officials from non-BCS leagues in their bowls, "if they would speak out and tell the truth," Gaston said from the league office in Birmingham, Ala.
Tim Millis, the Big 12 Conference's director of officiating, said he and Gaston have expressed dissatisfaction with a recent change in the system that decreased the number of officials used from certain conferences. Instead of linking the number of bowl officials to the number of bowl teams that a league had in the previous year, conferences are now capped. The Big 12, for instance, was allotted three bowl crews this year.
Millis made available his three highest-rated officials at each position - referee, head linesman, etc. - and not the three crews that were collectively rated the best. They work one bowl each.
Urban Meyer coached in the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference before arriving at Florida a year ago. He said the issue wasn't raised at the convention during the SEC coaches' meeting.
"Some of the best officiating I've ever seen was in the MAC and in the Mountain West," Meyer said. He added that he wasn't generally pleased with the officiating during the Outback Bowl, "but I don't think I'd label a conference."
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has been involved in 25 bowls in his 28 seasons on the Volunteers' staff. He would like to see only officials from BCS leagues working bowls matching teams from BCS leagues.
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach didn't address a reporter's question asked after his Red Raiders' 13-10 loss to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl about the absence of pass interference calls during the game by the Mountain West crew. That conference was the only one last season to use a replay system with coaches' challenges similar to the NFL's , but its Cotton Bowl crew switched to the format in which every play is reviewed because that's what was used in the Big 12 and SEC.
--- (c) 2006, The Dallas Morning News. Visit The Dallas Morning News on the World Wide Web at http://www.dallasnews.com/
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