Gene Sapakoff is the oldest, fastest, hardest-hitting sports journalist in S.C. As columnist at The Post and Courier he covers Clemson, South Carolina and other interesting things. He likes food and has won the prestigious Judson Chapman Award 3 times.

Muschamp (copy)

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp wasn't pleased with the officiating during or after a 38-27 loss to Florida on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mic Smith/AP

The standings insist that the South Carolina-Tennessee game on Saturday in Knoxville is critical to the postseason hopes of both squads. Actually, it’s a bowl game itself.

The sponsorship deal likely will be announced shortly.

The Advil SEC Still Owes Us An Apology Bowl.

Because whatever that drivel was coming out of the SEC office Wednesday in response to bad calls during last week’s Florida-South Carolina and Alabama-Tennessee games was less acceptable than instant grits.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a 753-word statement didn’t apologize.

But he mentioned accountability.

“We view perfection as our desired goal while also understanding it will always be an elusive standard in a game that is filled with surprises,” Sankey said. “And we are disappointed when we don’t get it right. Because our goal is to get it right, every time.”

Sankey didn’t admit that either officiating crew made mistakes, though the implication is clear.

“SEC officials are held accountable for the overall body of their work and the work of their officiating crew,” Sankey said, “which is reviewed on a weekly basis throughout the season and on an annual basis.”

A non-apology, explanation as wishy-washy as the Williams-Brice Stadium field was on Saturday is not good enough for the most-watched, most-scrutinized football league this side of the NFL.

Sure. It’s more probable than not that Florida would have found a way to beat South Carolina even without blown calls that went the Gators’ way on a pair of touchdowns. Maybe in double-overtime instead of 38-27.

Yes, Alabama was the better team at Tennessee, though several odd calls sure benefited Nick Saban, Inc., in a 35-13 victory (go ahead and wonder if the SEC would have apologized more directly if Alabama had been on the other side of the bad calls).

But try separating yourself from bias for a crazy minute and look at big-time college football purely as an entertainment product in a competitive world full of multi-platform options.

When the presentation is flawed – at a movie, a play, a concert, online – some people get mad enough that they don’t return.

Name the sky judge contest

The NFL has had its problems with officials this season, too. The league is still feeling fallout from a blown non-call in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship Game last season that brought a fan lawsuit and changed the pass interference challenge rule.

I asked South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday what he thought of the concept of a “sky judge” – or another title for a studio-bound person given authority to overrule calls or non-calls clearly wrong to anyone watching on a TV, phone, tablet or stadium video board.

Muschamp’s two-word response?

“No comment.”

Muschamp had a one-word analysis of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received from an official he said was 40 yards away.


But, please.

A Sky Judge.

Or an Oversight Czar, a Bad Call Cop.

Better yet, a Name The Job Title contest complete with prizes.

Such a person definitely would have weighed in on this stuff:

  • An apparent false start by Florida before Gamecocks cornerback Israel Mukuamu got held downfield on the same 75-yard touchdown run
  • A too-obvious pick play on a Florida touchdown pass
  • An unnecessary roughness call on Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor just as the Volunteers made a third-down stop while behind by only eight points in the second half.

“The call on Darrell Taylor was absolutely not a penalty; it’s not a penalty,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “Would it have changed the game? I don’t know. I know they would have punted instead of going down and scoring on that possession.”

The technology is available

Sankey in his SEC response on technology: “While officials have always faced scrutiny, the effect has been intensified in recent years with the evolution of high-definition televisions and the ability to view super slow-motion replays from multiple angles on screens of all sizes and via replays shown on monster, crystal clear in-stadium video boards.”

But all those things have been around a while.

Which means football is behind the high-tech curve.

Change a few rules so that an overtly awful call can get instantly altered by some guy in a studio bunker that isn’t too close to a sports bar.

Surely, this can be done without worrying about the “there’s holding on every play” argument.

Sankey on discipline for officials: “… during the season, officials' assignments may be altered based on in-season performance. By protocol, the SEC does not publicly announce these assignment changes.”

Sure sounds like a crew or two might be altered this week, which is the best thing Sankey said Wednesday.

Fans don’t need names on a platter. Publicly shaming individual officials is not cool; those are hard-working folks with families.

But fans do deserve a couple words missing from the long-winded, very veiled, read-between-the-lines SEC response:

“We’re sorry.”

Add that to the statement and it just means more.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff