Targeting Steve Shaw, SEC Coordinator of Football Officials

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Targeting Steve Shaw, SEC Coordinator of Football Officials

STEVE SHAW: We’re going to do two things today. I know we still have people coming in, but we’re going to take you an inside glimpse of SEC officiating. In front of you, we have a document. We call it our workflow document. So we’ll reference that a little bit.

And then the second part of this is going to be interactive. Hopefully you have — it’s been called a clicker, Cole Cunningham won’t let me call it a clicker. You have an interactive device, but you’re going to get to be an instant replay official today. So we’ll get to that part after we walk through the first part of the exercise, and that is the inside view of SEC officiating.

So, this document, and I’m going to put it up here, it’s also on the board, was really a creation that Commissioner asked for. As he watched what went on during football season and after football season, he came to us and the officiating staff and said, you need to put this together on a document that’s easy to view, easy to read, and is clear all of the activities that we do.





Now, unfortunately not all of the activities are captured here, but the majority of them and certainly the impact components are all captured here. What I want to do is take a few minutes and walk through some of these, but clearly, we’re not going to read this to you. You guys are smart. You can read. And really walk through what it looks like to be an SEC official, and really answer some questions that we get, you know, from the public, from the media at times and really walk through that.

So, the first question we’re going to hit today is, do you evaluate these guys? Is there any accountability for officiating? And as you look through this, we’re going to talk about in season and out of season, and Cole’s kind of moving around on this. But if you see on Wednesday, each official receives their film grade, so I want to talk a little bit about their film grade.

So every play in every game, just like the players, every play in every game is graded. And by close of business Wednesday, each official and every crew gets their film grade back. So how is that accomplished? We have a film grader for every game, and so they walk through — on every play, there’s actually seven components that can be evaluated. We have — and the officials start with 100. And, I mean, the expectation is perfection, and then you can only — for a great call, you don’t get added points. You only lose points, if you will, but there’s everything from incorrect mechanic, incorrect judgment, missed call, non-quality call, incorrect call. Incorrect call is the worst from a point value because an incorrect call is your marker was on the ground, but there wasn’t a foul.





You can have a missed call. It’s still negative, but an incorrect — when you put your marker on the ground, your integrity is linked to it, and there needs to be a foul here. So that’s the most punitive one we have, and then obviously correct call or comment only.

Many times there’s plays with comment only to give feedback to the officials, so they get that. But when the film grader finishes, when they hit the button, it actually goes to a position specialist. And we have a group, and we’ve actually put together for athletic directors kind of the accomplishments or background of all of these position specialists, and these are who’s who in officiating. Butch Hannah, maybe you guys know him, long-time SEC official, NFL official, worked every playoff, Super Bowl, et cetera, et cetera, Ronnie Banks, I’m the referee, I am the referee position specialist.

The grading then goes that position specialist to validate it for that specific position, all of the components there, and then by Wednesday night, it’s given back to the crew, each individual official. They all bring that to their Friday night session, and they review that as a crew.

So that’s the accountability on a weekly basis, but then if you flip the document to look at annually, so what is the accountability? And as you can see here, we have five areas on an annual basis that the officials are actually evaluated on. There’s a composite of your weekly film grade, and then you’re ranked by position, and you’ll see in each of these we’re ranked by position.

Observer completes a ranking, in other words, we have nine crews. They rank the referees one to nine. Each observer does that, and we take a medium score of that. We have a clinic test that is scored, and it goes toward your grade. And then the most favorite thing of our officials, the mile and a half run. And each has — it’s a military standard based on your age. It’s a pass-fail. But we actually give them credit if they beat their time. Then they get forced ranked in their position from a physical fitness standpoint.

And then finally, there’s a coordinator input evaluation to them. And so this impacts to them a number of things. Number one, and as we look at it, what are the impacts for them. And as you can see, the impacts here, in the middle of that, it’s their qualification for post season. It’s their tier level rankings. Many people don’t know we have three tiers of officials, and there’s not only a prestige difference, there’s a schedule difference, and there’s a fee difference. So you want to be in the higher tier.

We evaluate — just because you’re ranked number nine doesn’t mean that you are not going to be back as an official. The question is do you meet the standards of an SEC official. If you meet the standards, then for the next year, the ranking determines what crew you’re in, what kind of assignments you get, and ultimately as we talked about on the weekly part, it impacts your bowl assignment. First of all, do you get a bowl assignment? And if you do, you want to be in the best bowl you can possibly be in?

So it’s high accountability. If you don’t meet the expectations or standards, then you’re not invited back the following year. There’s high accountability. That may be more than you wanted to know, but it’s important that you know the impacts of the accountability on the official.

Now, this next question we get is if there’s a controversial play out there, many times we’ll get — we’ll see, oh, that coach is going to talk to the commissioner or Steve Shaw, that coach is going to send that play in. But the reality of that is we have open dialogue every week. Coaches send in plays from every game. Some of them, if they want to understand the call; some of them, it’s just better understanding, a rule, a technique, is this legal, is this not legal. But it’s very routine to send in plays.

And what we do back to the coaches, we do a voiceover video. Now, we do a training video that Cole Cunningham cut out — edits and makes me look good. And this is a voiceover back to the coach, and it’s just I’m talking over the video, Cole is running it back and forth. It’s very effective in communicating to a coach.

Steve Shaw
Steve Shaw

If he sends in a play, “We think this is a block in the back,” well, the old way was you sent back on the spreadsheet, “No, it’s not a block in the back, it’s a side block,” and the coach gets it and he says, “No, that isn’t,” now you can actually put the video up: This is a side block. This is what the official is looking at. This is the hand position. It doesn’t matter their head anymore. It’s where their hands are located. If we have a hand with force into the back, into the numbers, then that’s a foul; but if it’s into the shoulder, regardless of where their head is, it’s not a foul.

So we’re able to communicate with them better on officiating philosophies, but then that helps them teach their players better. So that is the weekly communication we have with our coaching and coaching staff. And it’s routine. It is not unusual situations.

And then one other question we get: What do you guys do in the offseason? People say, boy, I bet you play a lot of golf in the offseason. The reality is — and here we have listed out our January through August. Now, what’s not in here, and I mentioned this yesterday, what made this offseason even more busy, if you will, was our engagement with Deloitte consulting.

But, as you can see here, really, my January, February, March is as busy as in the season because that’s when we’re doing all of the end-of-year wrap-up evaluations. I do a one-on-one call with each official. We then have our spring clinics and camps, and we have a developmental clinic that’s focused on minority officials. We do a lot of work to hopefully find that next official out there. But also it’s our spring training opportunity, just like for the teams, to get better, get back to fundamentals, look at a lot of film and do that work together.

And you can see we do rules quizzes that start up with our guys early in the spring and work all of the way through the season.

And really begins to culminate in July. So next week we’ll have all our officials in for three days. That’s the beginning of our fall camp. And then one of the things we’re adding this year, they’re going to go and have a two-day camp on a campus with a school, be in their position meetings, work the scrimmages, interact with the coaches, talk about the new rules, how we’re going to officiate that. So offseason has gotten to be very busy, not only for the staff, but for our officials as well.

So there’s a number of other things. You can go — the other question is, do you guys just show up about 30 minutes before kickoff and work the game. You can read through this in season what all those type things are. So hopefully at the end, we’re going to change gears right now. But if we have a few moments at the end, we certainly love to get question from this. But we hope this is helpful to you as you look and see what the activities are of an SEC officiating staff and crew.

Now, we’re going to change gears a little bit. I hope everyone has their interactive device. Everybody got that? Everybody get their interactive device in their hand. We got some plays. So here is your challenge today. You are now — I’m deputizing you guys. You are now instant replay officials. Okay? You have to make the call. And what we’re going to do, we’re going to put up a series of plays. We’re going to let you look at them. Cole’s going to run the video. He’s going to give you all of the angles that you need to make the decision. Hopefully, you remember yesterday, we talked all of these are going to be targeting plays.

And what we want you to do is view the play and based on our new rule now, the new rule being as replay official, you must confirm all aspects of targeting to confirm it. So with your interactive device, if you look at it, there’s a No. 1. No. 1 is going to be, I confirm this is a targeting call. No. 2 is I overturn this. This is not targeting. Remember, there’s no stands anymore. So it’s either 1, confirmed targeting, No. 2, I’m going to overturn that.

Now, just so you know how this interactive device works, when we say — we’ll let the plays play, and I’ll say, okay, begin voting. When you vote, if you say it’s targeting and you keep looking and you say, no, I’m changing my mind, when we call the question, whenever the last thing you entered on your device is what will be registered. So if you change your mind before we say, okay, we’re calling the question, then get it in and that will be what’s displayed.

So as soon as the play’s over, we’ll display the percentages that it’s targeting and thinks it’s not targeting, and we’ll quickly walk through the play from an officiating viewpoint on how we would work that play.

Okay, everybody good? Everybody ready? All right. Cole, let’s run the first play.

Now, the question is, we’re going to look at

No. 18, the hit by the defensive back No. 18. That’s what you’re evaluating. Targeting 1, no targeting 2.

Okay. You’ve seen all of the views. It’s time to make a decision. So we’re calling the question. Then put your vote now. All right. Last look, and then we’re going to — all right. Last chance, everybody in. Okay? Let’s call the question. Okay. Some days, it a not fun being the coordinator when 59 to 41 percent — either way we call, 41 or 59 percent are not going to like what we did.

But let’s talk about this play. Go back to what we talked about yet, this is a targeting of a defenseless player or potentially that. So we have three components we have to have. Number one, do we have a defenseless player? This is close to — the receiver catches it, begins to pull the ball in, but our philosophy is when in question, he’s still defenseless. So, yes, we would consider this a defenseless player, so we confirmed the first part.

The second, is there an indicator. And what you see here is the player lowers his head and attacks. You see him lowering the head to attack. And so, yes, we have an indicator.

And third, now is there forcible contact to the head or neck area? And as you look at that, it’s absolutely there. You can see it from a number of angles. Right there is good. You can see the head come in. Watch the receiver’s head pop. That’s forcible contact. If you put your head in that helmet, you would agree that’s forcible contact.

Now, a lot of people would say, wait a minute, he had his shoulder lowered. It doesn’t matter if the shoulder touches first. It really doesn’t matter what happens. It’s is there forcible contact to the head or neck area, regardless if he led with something different. And so here we would say yes, forcible contact of the head or neck area, hits all three components. So, we would confirm this as a targeting.

So, you guys, overall, 41 percent didn’t, but in the balance, you got it right as a targeting. So, good work. Let’s go to play two.

Now, we’re going to look at the hit on the sliding runner. So, No. 4 is who you’re evaluating. You get a number of views. You’re always looking for what is your money shot. Okay. It’s time to call the question. We’ve been through all — we’ll look at this one. We’ll call in the question, but let’s look at this one also one last time here, Cole. All right. Let’s get your vote in.

Okay. There’s a trend going here. We’re staying in the 50s to 40s. And let me just say, let me start, this is not easy. This is not easy. So we had 58 percent said not targeting. Walk through, again, this is a defenseless player. Is he defenseless, yes. We made a rule change a couple years ago, a sliding ball carrier, we always think of a quarterback, but it’s a sliding ball carrier is a defenseless player. So yes, we have a defenseless player.

The second part is do we have an indicator. Absolutely, this player is going down low to attack into that quarterback. So yes, we have an indicator. Now, third, do we have — can we confirm forcible contact to the head or neck area? And there’s a couple views, harder to tell here. Cole, if we can go back to that previous view. This is the best view right here. We’ll pause it. Could there be — he really — although this is not technique we would approve, he really didn’t get forcible contact into the head or neck area, or certainly you can’t confirm that. The majority of that force is into the shoulder, shoulder pads, breast plate. So in our new rule, this would be a play that we would overturn, and that’s, you know, 58 percent of you guys were headed that way.

Now, let me say one thing on this, this should be — if officiated properly on the field and this is what we talked about yesterday, the call should be a dead ball, personal foul, with targeting. And the “with” means you’re evaluating targeting from the press box, but we are going to have a 15-yard penalty. This is a dead ball personal foul regardless here. We’re going to have a 15-yard penalty. So done properly on the field, we have the two components. Replay is only evaluating targeting. So we are kind of at 50/40.

Let’s see if we can break out of that. Let’s go to the next play.

So you can begin voting. Really, the two views we get here are this line feed and then this one kind of ends on shot. So begin voting. One targeting, two, you’re overturning it. All right. Let’s call the question. Okay!

71 percent said targeting. 29 percent said no targeting. Let’s walk through this play. This is a potential play for targeting with crown of the helmet. So we don’t have a defenseless player. This is a runner, no defenseless player.

So the only foul that could be here was targeting with the crown of the helmet. So the two things you have to confirm, is there forcible contact with the crown of the helmet, and I think there is no doubt you’re going to see 20. And the indicator is he lowers his head. And as we always talk to players, keep your head up. This is a dangerous play for No. 20 himself. He could have injured himself, and obviously he could injury the opponent in this play. Unfortunately the opponent was injured, but he can injure himself with that head ducking. So this would capture both of the components. You can confirm both. We would confirm this as a targeting foul. It’s crown of the helmet. So 71 percent. We’re headed in the right direction. So let’s go to the next play.

Some days it is not easy being a replay official. Remember your components. You have to get all three. All right. Let’s call the question. We want you to vote. Now, Cole, before we put up the answers, we are going to close it. But before you put it up, I want to make a couple comments about this play. So everybody in? We’re going to close the voting in three, two, one. All right. Close the voting. Don’t put it up yet, Cole.

Let me make a comment about this play. This is a tough play. This is a tough play. We actually used this in our national replay conference, and we had some media folks in there, in that. I don’t know where you guys are going to come out. They came out — this is almost mathematically impossible. They came out absolutely 50/50. We put the same play up, and then I’ll tell you what our officials did. But Cole, what did we do? I’m impressed. Okay. Now, 29 percent, you guys would be hammering me on. But 71 percent said no targeting. So let’s walk through the play. What make this a tough play? It’s a high hit, violent, very fast. But let’s just go back through our checklist.

Number one, do we have a defenseless player, absolutely. This receiver is defenseless, no question, so confirm that component. Is there an indicator? Yes. See that upward thrust? It’s not a full launch, but it’s enough. It’s an upward thrust to attack high. So yes, we have an indicator. And third, do we have forcible contact to the head or neck area. That is where the rule change makes a difference. Last year, this could be a stand. The hit is close. Maybe it’s a stand, but if you really look at the play, you cannot confirm there’s forcible contact to the head or neck area. It’s not a technique we like, but you can see from this, the force of that is really into the shoulder. There may be some head contact. The head goes forward.

This is a play you can’t confirm forcible contact of the head and neck area. We would want you to overturn it. So you guys did really well. Let’s do this. We have more plays, but I wanted to open it up to see if there are more questions either from the officiating work flow or any of these plays we had. Here’s your chance. We only have a couple minutes, but we would like to get a question or two if they are out there.

Q. Steve, on No. 3, you mentioned the ball carrier wasn’t defenseless. Can you explain why that would still qualify as targeting? I guess I just didn’t understand that part of it.
STEVE SHAW: Yeah. From the rule perspective, there’s two flavors of targeting. One is if you have forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless player, that’s targeting. And we used an example yesterday also where, if you use the crown, the top of your helmet, to attack and deliver forcible contact to an opponent, which is what this player did, he lowered his head and then he landed with his head, hit the other player, with the crown of his helmet. Even though that player is not defenseless, if you hit him with the crown of your helmet, if you attack with the forcible contact and use the crown of your helmet, that’s a foul. That’s why it would be a targeting foul.

Q. Yes, Steve, I got a question, now, you made a great illustration on whether it’s targeting or whether it’s a 15-yard penalty. Are you all going to make a decision on whether you get the 15-yard penalty or throw the kid out of the game? Has that — because I think really we’re making that decision right now very easy, but to throw the kid out of the game, where you going with that?
STEVE SHAW: And that’s — I’ll say two things on that. Number one, you really have to listen to the announcement of the referee because if the referee says it could be roughing the passer with targeting, a blind side block with targeting, any time you hear with targeting, we are going to have a 15-yard penalty. And then it is going to go to replay the disqualification component for targeting.

The change this year by taking away the stands from the replay booth, you have to confirm the aspects. We believe — last year, we had 12 percent of our targeting fouls were stands. The marginal plays, the one we looked at where maybe the player was lucky he didn’t hit him in the head, but where there’s not all three of the components, then we don’t want to disqualify that player. And the philosophy behind it, and that’s a change in replay, but the philosophy behind it is you only want to disqualify the player if you can confirm all aspects.

If you can’t confirm all aspects, we don’t want to disqualify that player. I think it’s a change. The targeting rule has served us well. As it’s matured, I think it’s a change in replay that will be better for our game. All right. Thank you. I appreciate the time, and we’re looking forward to getting our season started. Thank you.





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Greg is closing in on 15 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.