Monday, September 20, 2004

SEC Official Admits Officials Made Serious Mistakes that Changed the Outcome of the UF-UT Game

From Florida Today

The Southeastern Conference's supervisor of officials admitted Sunday night that the crew working Tennessee's 30-28 win over Florida one night earlier "goofed," making two serious mistakes that may have affected the outcome.

"They did, unfortunately," Bobby Gaston told FLORIDA TODAY. "I can say there was a timing error made at the end of the game and there will be accountability, but we do not make public what we do. That's handled in-house between the University of Florida and the (SEC) commissioner."

The whole crew, which is one of the league's most highly rated and has worked the league championship game together, will be punished, Gaston said.

The errors occurred after Florida wide receiver Dallas Baker and Tennessee cornerback Jonathan Wade clashed after a third down run for no gain by Gator tailback DeShawn Wynn with 55 seconds left. An official standing near the play penalized Florida 15 yards and stopped the game clock - even though Wade also hit Baker in the helmet with his hand, causing the receiver to retaliate.

Gaston said both players should have been penalized. That would have meant offsetting penalties and the ball would have stayed at the 38 instead of being moved back to the 23, where UF had to punt on fourth down.

Officials also stopped the game clock until the action resumed. Stopping the clock before Eric Wilbur's 41-yard punt enabled Tennessee to take over with 43 seconds left and run five plays before James Wilhoit kicked a game-winning 50-yard field goal with six seconds left.
Gaston said the clock should have started the second the ball was placed on the ground - and it should have been placed at the 38, not the 23.

"Had it been an incomplete pass play, then you start the clock on the snap," Gaston said of the rule. "But you had the running play where, in the absence of the penalty, the clock would have continued to run. (So) the clock should have continued to run."

Gaston was on the sidelines and realized immediately what had happened. He left with the officiating crew after the game and told them they'd made a mistake.