Both sides of MU's special teams line up on Faurot Field to work on punt returns before the scrimmage was moved inside on Saturday, April 7, 2012.
Story by Alex Silverman
Photo by Kelsey Alumbaugh
Inside Devine Pavilion, players donning solid black, white and green jerseys weren’t the only ones preparing for the upcoming football season on Saturday. The men in stripes, officials from the Southeastern Conference, made their first visit to Columbia for the conference’s annual spring officiating clinic.
SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said getting officials ready early is an important part of ensuring that things run smoothly in the fall.
“People think we just show up thirty minutes before kickoff and work the game. It’s not like that,” Shaw said. “We’re basically looking at film, doing our fundamentals. It’s our spring training opportunity.”
In 2011, the SEC officiating staff consisted of eight separate crews, each with seven officials. In order to accommodate the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the conference, the SEC has added a ninth crew for the 2012 season. The SEC also maintains a group of supplemental officials, who work in smaller conferences, but train with SEC officials with aspirations of joining a full-time SEC crew.
50 officials rotated into the Tigers’ scrimmage Saturday, giving both full-time and supplemental SEC officials the chance to familiarize themselves with Missouri’s style of play. Shaw said the fast-paced Missouri offense won’t catch his crews off guard. He cited Auburn’s 2010 National Championship team as one example of an SEC team that has played at a high speed.
“It’s not something we’re not accustomed to,” Shaw said. “We’ve got a number of schools that really run fast pace…I know that’s something that’s big in the Big 12, so it’s good for our guys and to reassure the coaches that, from our standpoint, we’re ready to handle that.”
Shaw doesn’t believe that the Tigers will see much of a difference in how games are officiated with the change in conference, as there is a national effort to try and standardize officiating.
“It used to be ‘oh well this is a Pac-12 crew, they may call one way’,” Shaw said. “We’re really trying to drive away from that.”
It seems as though the SEC officials were successful in that way Saturday. When asked if he noticed any difference, Missouri wide receiver Gahn McGaffie said officiating hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“I really didn’t notice anything different,” McGaffie said. “We really don’t pay a lot of attention to the refs because we can’t control that part of the game, but they seem ok.”
Shaw stressed the importance of making sure that the officials form a good relationship with the Missouri coaching staff. Certainly, Shaw said, it’s easier to build a good rapport during the spring than the fall.
“When you come here in the fall, everybody’s gonna be uptight and that’s a tough day to build a relationship,” Shaw said. “Today, they’re more loose and relaxed; great time to build that relationship.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was impressed by Shaw and his officials, saying that they embody what the SEC is all about:
“You notice, and just like anybody who’s associated with the SEC, they have a lot of pride in who they are,” Pinkel said.