On Friday, the SEC decided not to suspend Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial for his hit on Aaron Murray in the SEC Championship game.
Here’s the hit to refresh your memory:
SEC Director of Officials Steve Shaw said days after the SEC Championship game that Dial should have been penalized for his hit against Murray after his interception, and furthermore, that commissioner Mike Slive would decide whether or not Dial would be suspended the next game – which just happens to the BCS National Championship.
On Friday, the SEC delivered the news that it won’t suspend Dial, leaving him to wreak havoc against the Irish.
Here’s the official statement from the SEC on Dial’s ruling.
“The Southeastern Conference has completed its review of video from the 2012 SEC Football Championship Game. Several plays involving both teams were reviewed. After review, all subsequent action will be handled internally by the two institutions and the conference office is satisfied with their actions.”
That’s good for Alabama; that’s good for the SEC. But was it the correct ruling, and was it consistent with prior other suspensions?
Here is what Shaw told AL.com about a ‘defenseless player’, with respect to Dial’s hit on Murray, before the league had a chance to review it.
“By rule, you can’t hit a defenseless player above the shoulders. What the determination needs to be is was this defenseless player and was contact initiated above the shoulders? When we go through video review of it, that’s what we’ll have to determine. And then you as you break it down, did he lead with the head or lead with the shoulder? From game action, it was a personal foul regardless of how we break it down frame by frame.”
Murray was a defenseless player, and Dial did appear to initiate the contact with his helmet. Compared to the other two prior suspensions – and one other that wasn’t ruled as a suspension – handed out earlier this year, the ruling is inconsistent at best.
The SEC suspended Ole Miss DB Trae Elston for his hit earlier in the year against a UTEP wide receiver. Much like Dial, Elston wasn’t flagged on the play, but the SEC ruled that Elston would be suspended for the next game against Texas the very next week because he hit a ‘defenseless receiver’.
Here’s Elston’s hit:
Here’s the ruling against Elston, and it was a violation of Rule 9-1-4, according to the SEC:
“No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.”
Rule 9-1-3 also states:
“No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.”
The SEC also suspended South Carolina safety DJ Swearinger after his hit on a UAB receiver. That one was warranted and a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit by Swearinger. That’s the right call, and a suspension was warranted. The league got two calls right in a row, and there was consistency shown.
But here’s a hit in the opening week from Vanderbilt’s Andre Hal on South Carolina tight end Justice Cunningham, causing Cunningham’s helmet to fly off. Hal was penalized for hitting a ‘defenseless player’ above the shoulders. But the SEC didn’t suspend Hal, and we never heard any more about it.
As evidenced by the above four rulings – or non-rulings – one can only come to the conclusion that a defensive player cannot be deemed defenseless. Murray was absolutely defenseless, but if Dial wasn’t suspended for his hit on Murray, it leads me to believe that offensive players – Murray turned into a defender after throwing the interception – will never get called for an illegal hit on a defenseless player, ever.
Slive has yet to publicly make any comments about Dial’s hit or the SEC’s ruling.
Whether you agree or disagree with the league’s ruling on Dial, we can all agree that there is inconsistency with the rulings. If Elston was suspended, Dial probably should have been, too.
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