OXFORD, Miss. — The CIA, FBI, KGB and the Israeli Intelligence Agency, Mossad, have nothing on the Southeastern Conference’s office when it comes to keeping secrets.
Heck, for all we know the league office might know all about UFOs, Stonehenge and who really shot JFK.
But like those mysteries, the SEC is being mute on the muffed kickoff in the Ole Miss-Auburn game last week. It is also making very sure no one else is speaking about it either. Especially Rebels’ coach Lane Kiffin.
“Well I was late to this (Monday’s press conference) because I was on the phone with (Coordinator of Football Officials) John McDaid and the SEC, and so I’ve really struggled with this a lot…” Kiffin said at his Monday press conference.
“He called to explain what happened. You know, I really wish for our players, for our fans that they could hear what I was just told. I think they deserve to but, you know, I asked, and they made sure to tell me that there’s a policy that I can’t tell you (the media), the players or the fans what you know their, if you want to call it explanation, (is) for that situation.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on speaking with the SEC
That situation did not look good for the SEC referees nor the league office.
Saturday, with Ole Miss leading 28-27, the Rebels kicked off to Auburn. Luke Logan’s boot fell short and bounced toward Tigers’ return man Shaun Shivers. As the ball approached him, Shivers reached out and it clearly appeared to go off his finger before rolling into the end zone where Ole Miss’ Tylan Knight fell on the ball.
Indisputable video evidence is required for replay to reverse the ruling on the field. This was ruled not touched by the receiver. The ball was recovered by the kickers in the end zone. This appears to meet that standard in my opinion. Should have been an Ole Miss TD. https://t.co/UrTnFLy4jQ
— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) October 24, 2020
Shivers certainly seemed to think he should go after the ball when it looked as if it had touched his finger. But upon seeing the ball roll into the end zone, he quickly motioned to the officials to indicate he had not touched the ball. The referees agreed and called a touchback.
“Everyone in the country could see it (the ball) hit him, and I asked the side judge, you know, why aren’t they replaying it, do I need to challenge? And he said they’d already looked at it and there’s nothing there.”
Coach Lane Kiffin
Replays and the broadcasters calling the game for the SEC Network, Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers, also agreed there was indeed something to see on the play.
Numerous national commentators agreed it was an Auburn fumble that Ole Miss recovered for a touchdown. A conversion would have put Ole Miss ahead, 35-27, in the fourth quarter.
Instead, the Tigers drove for a touchdown and a 35-28 win.
Hart and Rodgers were able to state their opinion during the game, but it appears as if perhaps McDaid’s stated policy to Kiffin spread to other commentators on the network.
During Monday’s edition of “The Best of SEC This Morning,” neither host Peter Burns nor analyst Chris Doerring commented on the controversial play. What they did mention was the dropped passes, a dropped interception and Kiffin’s conservative play-calling down the stretch, all of which contributed to the Ole Miss loss. But not to mention such a controversial play the absolutely could have affected the outcome of the game? That seems odd.
A few weeks ago, a controversial play also benefitted Auburn. During the Tigers’ last-minute win against Arkansas, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix spiked the ball to stop the clock. But Nix spiked it backwards, making it a fumble. After replay, the officials ruled there was not an immediate recovery by the Razorbacks and a few plays later, Auburn kicked the game-winning field goal.
Perhaps the SEC decided it needed no more controversy about its officials.
During his program, Doerring included Kiffin in his “Top Five Power Rankings” — for not blowing his top after the game.
The network’s show did mention that there was controversy at the end of the Indiana-Penn State game when the Indiana quarterback may or may have not scored on the game-winning two-point conversion. What is good for the Hoosier is not as good for the Rebel it, seems.
Veteran sports talk show host Paul Finebaum had to mention the play as his first caller to his Monday show asked about it. Prior to the first caller, Finebaum said, “Ole Miss loses again, wondering about what might have been.”
Yet when answering that first call, Finebaum was straight to the point. “I was somewhat in a state of bewilderment why that play was not looked at.” Finebaum said. “They said it was reviewed, but it certainly wasn’t reviewed very long.”
To the SEC Network’s credit, later in the day on the show, “Talking Out Loud,” the commentators did debate the issue. The program had a productive banter about how much the muffed call contributed to the outcome of the game.
It was nice the network personalities did not receive a gag order by the league like Kiffin did.
While controlling his emotions during his press conference, he quipped the SEC policy might not be bad if it had a trickle-down effect.
“You know what I’d really like? When you guys (the media) ask me questions about managing a game or how I played the players, (if I could) just say that’s a personal thing and I can’t discuss it with you.”
As much as Kiffin would like to implement that guideline, he knows he cannot do it. If he did, the SEC office would fine him for not sharing information.
As it turns out, from Coach Kiffin’s post on Twitter, it appears he may already have been fined by the league for making known his feelings on the whole kickoff debacle:
Didn’t work!!! 💰🔥. Sorry Knox college fund gone. I mean….. https://t.co/Z6dMfzki1N
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) October 26, 2020