There won’t be an apology coming from the SEC offices this week.
At least not to Tennessee.
Both Vols coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen took exception to more perceived errors by conference officials on Saturday and were slapped with reprimands Monday, and — at least as it applies to Kiffin — that’s the SEC’s last word on the matter.
The league has suspended an officiating crew and publicly apologized for blown calls already this season, but after further review, the SEC stands by the ruling on the field after UT’s upset bid was blocked at then-No. 1 Alabama.
The controversy is over UT’s game-ending field-goal attempt, which was blocked by Alabama lineman Terrence Cody and preserved a 12-10 victory. Cody immediately yanked off his helmet in celebration even as an apparently live ball was still rolling on the field. Pulling off a helmet during a game is a 15-yard penalty.
“The rule in play here and the interpretation of the penalty for taking off a helmet is a live-ball penalty treated as a dead-ball penalty,” SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said. “If the foul is called, it would have been marked off on the next play.
“That would be the only interpretation, and if there was no time on the clock, there’s no way to mark the penalty off.”
Kiffin clearly saw the play another way, and expressing his interpretation was part of his second violation of conference rules this season. He also was upset about a disparity in penalties — 8 for 68 yards for UT compared to 1 for 10 for Alabama — well before the final play against the Crimson Tide, and almost as soon as his podium session ended on Saturday night he seemed to expect he would hear from commissioner Mike Slive.
Then he addressed the issue again after his first Sunday practice of the season, prompting Slive to put Kiffin “on notice” that a third reprimand will lead to further penalties, including suspension.
“To me, the rule is this — if a play is still going on, you can’t take your helmet off,” Kiffin said Sunday. “The play is still going. The ball is sitting there. If (tight end) Luke (Stocker) sees the ball he can pick it up and go score a touchdown and we win the game. The guy (Cody) throws his helmet, then two of their guys go recover the ball. It’s a 15-yard penalty and we kick again.
“I’m sure we’ll get one of those letters that mean nothing, that (Arkansas coach) Bobby (Petrino) got last week, but Florida and Alabama live on.”
Florida had another issue again over the weekend against Mississippi State, and Mullen also received a letter from the league after blasting a replay official over a play at the goal-line.
Although both Kiffin and Mullen got letters of reprimand, neither has received a letter acknowledging an error by the officiating crew. And at least for the Vols, the SEC has no plans to send one.