Game review, 2014: Wofford

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Box score

Oh, well. What can you do? Aaron Miller appeared to score the game-winning touchdown for The Citadel, only for the SoCon officials to rule he didn’t score, and thus handing the victory* to Wofford.

You could see the end-play debacle by the men in stripes coming, as they seemed unprepared for the Bulldogs’ last-minute push for a TD. The players and coaches on both teams did a good job of handling the time management issues associated with end-game drives, but the officials seemed confused (if not outright chaotic) in their movements.

This was best exemplified by the bizarre “double spike” sequence on first-and-goal, in which Aaron Miller had to repeat spiking the ball on first down because the ball was deemed not ready for play, even though it had been put in play by the umpire. That’s because the clock didn’t start.

I had never seen that happen before, and I doubt anyone else had either.

On the final play, the officials hesitated, then apparently decided “well, he probably scored but let’s just give the game to the home team and get out of here.” Then they quickly ran off the field (no significant discussion necessary), looking a lot like characters from a Mack Sennett movie.

The ruling was very hard to swallow for anyone who supports The Citadel. I can’t imagine how the players and coaches feel (especially as it’s already the second time this season the Bulldogs have lost a game in which poor SoCon officiating played a major role).

It was arguably not as bad as the 2008 Elon game, which featured multiple ludicrous late-game officiating decisions, but that’s small consolation.

The call served as yet another reminder that at least in recent years, the conference has not treated The Citadel very well in a wide variety of areas. One that I’ve written about before, of course, is the fact that no one associated with The Citadel is in the SoCon Hall of Fame, despite the military college being a member of the league since 1936.

When there is controversy over the officiating like there was in Spartanburg on Saturday, what makes the Hall of Fame snub even worse is the knowledge that the league changed its rules for eligibility in order to elect two basketball officiating supervisors to the Hall.

The league is essentially saying that no one from The Citadel is good enough for its Hall of Fame, but those in charge of the league’s oft-maligned officials are more than good enough.

Perhaps the SoCon could have taken the money it allocated for its Hall of Fame and used it to help fix its longstanding officiating problems. Then again, the conference sometimes struggles with long-term decisions, as demonstrated by how it has gradually run the league baseball tournament into the ground.

Ultimately, The Citadel has to win games like this by two or three scores, to ensure the officials can’t play as large a role in the outcome. It’s a tough thing to say, but it’s true.

To have won the game by multiple scores on Saturday, the Bulldogs needed to be a little better in certain areas:

– Wofford converted all four of its fourth-down tries. That made up for the Terriers only going 4-12 on third down. The Bulldogs needed to force a defensive stop on a couple of those fourth down plays, particularly on the long drive in the second quarter.

– The Citadel only averaged 3.7 yards per rush. The longest run from scrimmage for the Bulldogs was 15 yards. Conversely, Wofford had five rushing plays that went for more than 15 yards.

– I wasn’t completely sure about Mike Houston’s decision to eschew a 43-yard field goal attempt on the opening drive in favor of going for it on 4th-and-16 from the Wofford 26. It is possible that 43 yards was on the fringe of Eric Goins’ range, and the wind was against the Bulldogs at the time.

It’s just that 4th-and-16 is a very low-percentage offensive situation. I’ll defer to the coach, though, on whether or not is was still a higher percentage than a field goal attempt would have been.

Positives:

– Well, I’m still alive despite how the game ended. I guess that counts as a positive.

– I thought the team played very hard on Saturday. There is no question that the effort was there. The result should have been there, too.

– I just want to note (and not for the first time) that Spike The Bulldog is a hard-working mascot. As an alumnus, I really appreciate this. I also want to give a shout-out to Spike The Bulldog’s press agent, Cadet Diefendorf, who is never far from Spike’s side.

– It was also good to see General II and Boo X at the game. I wish that for future road trips (or at least relatively short ones), the same can be said for the cheerleaders, and perhaps a small pep band.

– As usual, a lot of alums and other supporters of The Citadel were in attendance. No school in the league has fans who “travel” better.

– Jim Senter’s tie received rave reviews.

Now, The Citadel’s new director of athletics needs to have a long conversation with SoCon commissioner John Iamarino, who was also at the game on Saturday. As usual, Iamarino’s hair was perfect, and his officials were not.

Senter may not know yet (though he’ll soon find out) that basketball officiating in the Southern Conference is even more ridiculed by veteran league observers. The AD should let Iamarino know that the conference really needs to get its act together on all fronts.

This may be unfair or unwarranted, but there is a definite sense among many loyal supporters of The Citadel that the conference takes the military college for granted. The commissioner might want to do something about that.

This week’s crop of mediocre-to-bad photos ends about midway through the fourth quarter, due to battery issues.

5 Responses

  1. To the Sports Arsenal/Sandlapper Spike,

    I occasionally visit your blog. You have a good writing style, but your latest entry contains errors that I thought I should bring to your attention.

    The Charleston Southern game vs. The Citadel was a Big South officiating assignment. And there is zero crossover between ACC officials and the SoCon as you previously stated when surmising why Mike Houston didn’t complain at Charleston Southern. The Big South does a crossover with the ACC.

    You are correct that the officials put the ball in play prematurely on 1st and goal from the 3 at Wofford. That should not have occurred. On the game’s last play, the head linesman and field judge are in proper position, run in as the play develops and decisively (as opposed to your description) indicate the ball should be spotted short of the goal line. No video or picture I’ve seen shows the football across the goal line before the runner was downed by contact.

    Your Hall of Fame conspiracy theory is amusing because of the 33 inductees we’ve had, the Conference office has appointed TWO, as permitted by the membership. One of those two is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, so we make no apologies for them. I am quite certain The Citadel will have representatives voted in, but those votes are not cast by this office.

    Likewise, the decision as to where the baseball tournament is held is a result of Athletic Directors’ votes. But I suspect you already know that.

    The most grievous mistake in your most recent post is the idea that the Southern Conference takes The Citadel for granted. On the contrary, we are proud of The Citadel’s membership. It would be petty and shortsighted to draw a straight line between losing a close football game and being a perpetual victim.

    I hope you continue to enjoy improved health.

    John Iamarino
    Commissioner
    Southern Conference

  2. This is not the first time this particular line judge has muffed a game for The Citadel. I they are going to be wrong, at least they should show some confidence in doing it. The line judge didn’t know which way to go because he didn’t see if the ball crossed or not. So he defaulted to Wofford. End of story.

  3. Thank you for your response, Mr. Iamarino.

    First, I would also like to thank you for your comment on my health. It is appreciated. My cardiologist probably wouldn’t be so sure that I should have attended the game on Saturday, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

    Also, you show excellent taste in your sports blog reading.

    I want to address three points you made. On one, it is clear that I made a mistake, and I need to apologize for that. On a second, we are going to have to agree to disagree.

    I am going to have to respectfully correct you on a third issue.

    First, apparently the game between The Citadel and Charleston Southern was not officiated by a SoCon crew. Obviously, the league cannot be faulted for any errors made by those officials. Mea culpa.

    I should have done a better job of researching that. I got confused by…well, it doesn’t matter why. I made a mistake. That’s my fault.

    (I will say that I am puzzled as to why The Citadel, as the road team, also drew the home team conference officials, but I have about given up understanding anything about how and why that game was scheduled. At any rate, that is not your problem.)

    There is at least one picture that appears to show most of Aaron Miller’s body over the goal line (and in the photo, he is still not down). In my opinion, it is very difficult to imagine how the football at no point failed to break the plane of the goal line, particularly when you combine the picture with videos of the play.

    I suspect the officials were unable to see the ball at the crucial moment. The umpire (who you didn’t mention) may have been closer to the play than either the head linesman or the field judge, but was moving away from the action and possibly would not have been able to see the ball. I thought he was hesitant in his actions. I suppose the argument is that it wouldn’t be his call.

    I’m going to stand by my statement that the official ruling was not quickly made. The Wofford players, for example, did not make any move to celebrate immediately following the conclusion of the play. They were waiting for a call.

    The umpire looked across to the field judge as he began to approach the pile. The head linesmen then came in later. Finally, the field judge raised his hand. That sequence took several seconds. Nothing about it was decisive.

    However, you have to defend your officials, and I understand and respect that.

    I will say this, though. There is a decided lack of confidence in league officiating. That’s more of the case in basketball than in football, but you are doubtless aware of it, much as I know that the league doesn’t have the resources of a major conference and has some limitations in how much money can be allocated to game officials.

    It’s not like you’re the commissioner of the Pac-12 and every week one of your crews makes some zany call (or six) that has an impact on the game. Leagues in the P5 conferences have no excuse not to have the very best when it comes to officiating.

    That said, SoCon officiating could be better. It should be better. And on Saturday afternoon in Spartanburg, it needed to be better. We will agree to disagree on that last comment, to be sure.

    I want to correct something you said above. To briefly quote you…

    “Your Hall of Fame conspiracy theory is amusing…”

    With all due respect, I made no mention of a “conspiracy theory”. I never have. That is not how I operate. My contention, which I have made consistently in this blog and in other arenas, is that the electoral process for the Southern Conference Hall of Fame is fundamentally flawed.

    That isn’t a conspiracy theory.

    There are two major problems with the process. One is that the vote is only held every other year. I honestly do not understand why it is not done annually.

    Not holding yearly elections is the same mistake the National Baseball Hall of Fame made back in the late 1930s, and it still affects that institution to this day. With literally dozens and dozens of stars from the previous seven decades of major league baseball eligible for enshrinement, the BBWAA elected exactly one candidate in a six-year period (Rogers Hornsby). That led to…but I digress. Back to the SoCon Hall of Fame:

    The second problem is the requirement that two of the four spots allocated every other year for male athletes and/or coaches are reserved for the pre-1954 era. Athletes and coaches from the first 33 years of the league thus have almost twice as good a chance of being elected as those who came later, because that latter period is much longer (60 years and counting).

    Partly as a result of this, no male athlete who played in the league from 1966-1992 is in the Hall. In any sport. From any school.

    That’s not a conspiracy theory. That’s just the way it is.

    You mentioned that the league office has only appointed two people to the Hall. I assume you’re talking about the officiating supervisors. That’s all well and good, but they took spots from that post-1954 group. That’s one less opportunity to elect Chal Port (RIP), or Brian Ruff, or Paul Maguire.

    Since 2011, the league has held just two votes, and has elected exactly one post-1954 male athlete — Clint Dempsey (who is obviously an outstanding selection). There won’t be another vote until 2016.

    Waiting two years to hold another election will just accelerate the problem. In two years, players like Stephen Curry and Armanti Edwards will be eligible. I suspect the voting panel is going to be inclined to largely support their respective candidacies. That may push other deserving individuals back further.

    It’s not just about The Citadel, of course. VMI also has no inductees. Neither does Western Carolina, which hasn’t been in the league nearly as long as the two military schools but in four decades has produced its own fair share of candidates (particularly in baseball).

    I am glad that you say the Southern Conference is proud of The Citadel’s membership. As for the “petty and shortsighted” comment:

    I might point out that I have seen my alma mater lose more than a few games, in a lot of different sports, and occasionally in calamitous fashion. I can take a punch, when it comes to things like that. I have before, and I will again.

    The same is true for most of The Citadel’s fans. They keep coming back. You saw that for yourself on Saturday.

    That’s not the issue. What is the issue is that in recent years, The Citadel has come out on the short end of the stick more often than a lot of its supporters think is acceptable. Maybe that’s a natural reaction, especially when the school has struggled from a varsity athletics perspective over the last two decades. You aren’t responsible for that, of course.

    However, that has nothing to do with things like the league’s Hall of Fame. Facts are facts. There is no one from The Citadel in the Hall. There should be.

    That has nothing to do with the state of conference officiating. It could be better. It should be.

    At least the league has made progress on video streaming. It took a while (too long, for some), but so far, so good.

    You may also know that I didn’t exactly rake the league office over the coals during the recent conference realignment imbroglio. That was a difficult situation. I think the league largely did the best it could, given the circumstances.

    Just understand that as you defend the league and its officials, I will defend The Citadel. If I think something is wrong that negatively impacts my school, I’m going to say so.

    I saw something I thought was wrong on Saturday. I saw something I thought was wrong when I analyzed the SoCon Hall of Fame. I saw something I thought was wrong when the league decided to uproot its baseball tournament (and while that may be a result of ADs voting, surely you have some influence in that area — after all, you’re the commissioner!).

    I’ll continue to be critical or laudatory when appropriate. I may not always be right, but I like to think I’m fair. I’m not exactly a hothead, either.

    We may not agree on some things, but I appreciate your response. You have my respect for that.

  4. The commissioner reminds me of Baghdad Bob. We will NEVER have improvement in our officiating if we pretend they never make mistakes. Watching the still photos that have been on numerous websites and the slow-motion replays on “terrier-vision”….there is really no way a player does not break the plane if he charges into the line carrying the ball in his left hand…..slamming into the defenders with his left shoulder…..so much so that even though he got twisted…..he wound up with more than half his body in the EZ. The two refs ran (a generous overstatement) in from the sidelines with absolute cluelessness on their faces. Citadel players had their hands up signaling TD…..Wofford players were looking down–dejected. That was until the two officials (presumably waiting for the other official to make the call)…..made no call. I heard a great deal about a “knee that went down”….until the still photos showed….no knee touched the ground. Again, honest self assessment is much more important than plausible deniability when official calls come into question. We owe it to the coaches and especially the players (who play a dangerous sport) to get it right and to have the professional courage to admit it when we blow an important call. The players and coaches have to be able to trust in the competence of the officials and the system that exercises cognizance over them.

  5. I think that not only does the SoCon take us for granted, they treat us like a Red Headed Step Child.

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