Perhaps eight is the magic number for the SEC. Earlier this week the conference announced it will stick with an eight-game conference schedule format. Now it appears the conference will experiment with using eight referees on a football field this fall.
According to Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, the SEC will follow the lead established by the Big 12 last season and test using an eighth official. The new official will be referred to as the center judge and will be located in the offensive backfield, opposite of the referee.
The Big 12 added an eighth official to the crew last season, primarily to help keep the pace of the game moving by spotting the football quicker during a drive. The Big 12 will again use an eighth official in 2014, and other conferences may decide to follow the trend. The NCAA is allowing conferences to make those decisions on a conference-by-conference basis. The SEC will not be using the additional referee with the goal of speeding up the game, but that is not the reason for the additional ref shared by the SEC for now.
“People think we’re putting the eighth official in so we can go even faster (given the ongoing debate about up-tempo offenses),” SEC officiating coordinator Steve Shaw said to CBSSports.com. “That absolutely is not the case. The expectation is the pace of the game, whether it’s seven or eight, will be very consistent across the board.”
The extra official will allow for better officiating around the line of scrimmage in a game that is evolving more toward passing the football down field. Having an extra set of eyes back where the ball is snapped will potentially allow for better enforcement of various rules and perhaps cut down on penalties that really are not penalties, where flags sometimes get thrown as a reaction to the end result of a play that is nowhere near as flagrant as it could have been.