Sunday, November 30, 2003

Everyone Says Officials Were Horrible in FSU-Florida Game

I didn't see the game, but in the little Illinois town where I am the paper's two paragraph description includes a line "terrible officiating" that all went against Florida (and cost them at least 14 points). There was a near riot at the end of the game.

I look to Mike Biachi of the Orlando Sentinel for a little relief.

From The Orlando Sentinel:

"That's the worst [bleeping] officiating I've seen in my entire life," Florida offensive guard Shannon Snell said. "We're supposed to be cordial, but the way the game was called was b.s. They were definitely biased. I can see one or two bad calls, but it happened at least five times. They took the game away from us."

When told that the officials were pelted with debris when they left the field, Snell scoffed, "They deserved it."

Added UF offensive tackle Max Starks: "It's hard to win when it's 17 playing 11."

OK, so Starks' math is a little off. Actually, there are seven officials on a crew, which means the Gators were actually outnumbered 18 to 11. Or so it seemed.

The controversy started on the opening kickoff when it appeared FSU return man Antonio Cromartie fumbled, but the officials ruled Cromartie down. A short time later, on another kickoff, Cromartie again fumbled, but officials ruled Florida was offside. On one series later in the first half, there were three times when officials disallowed potential Florida State fumbles. Three times in one series.

In the second half, it appeared as if Florida running back Ciatrick Fason might have been down before he fumbled, but officials ruled Florida State recovered and returned it for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Florida State running back Leon Washington fumbled near Florida's goal line later in the game and UF linebacker Channing Crowder came out of the pile with it, but officials gave the ball to FSU.

"I had it right from the start," Crowder said. "I had the ball in my arms, but they gave it to FSU."

Obviously, Florida had Chris Rix in a fourth-and-14 late in the game and allowed the Seminoles to convert. And that had nothing to do with officiating. Obviously, P.K. Sam caught the game-winning 52-yard touchdown with 55 seconds left. And that had nothing to do with officiating. And, obviously, the officials didn't miss every one of those controversial calls.

But how often does every questionable call go against one team?

I'm not positive who the officials were Saturday, but I believe their names were Terry Bowden, Tommy Bowden, Timmy Bowden and Tony Bowden. And I can't swear to this, but I think I saw the field judge leaving the game Saturday riding a horse and carrying a flaming spear. And I'm still a little fuzzy on this, but I believe I saw the head linesman signal that it was Florida State ball by doing a tomahawk chop.

I'm kidding, of course, but there are certainly questions today regarding the allegiance of game officials. This is a problem that could easily be solved by just contracting officials from a neutral conference to call big games pitting teams from different leagues. Many times there are $15 million BCS bowl bids riding on the outcome of these games, so why not eliminate even the appearance of favoritism?