Several close calls went against Gators
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When he renews the contract with Florida State, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley will look into changing a long-standing agreement that calls for officiating crews from the conference of the road team to work the game.
Foley said he called Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive shortly after Florida's 38-34 loss to Florida State to vent about several calls that went against the Gators. Slive told Foley there was nothing he could do because the crew was from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I have no recourse," Foley told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I will be interested to see their evaluation."
The end of the game was marred by a melee at midfield that started when Florida players took offense at Florida State players who came to midfield to jump on their logo. Foley and coach Ron Zook said they would look at the tape and take appropriate action later in the week.
"I saw what was happening," said Foley, who was in the middle trying to break it up. "I have no idea how it began. Obviously, emotions run high. But it's not what our program wants to be about."
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Sunday he was still trying to sort through what happened.
"You got 160 guys dressed out there, and it didn't get any worse than it did. I guess there was some good to it, too," he said.
Bowden said he'd take disciplinary action if he determined any of his players were out of line in the fracas.
Bowden said neutral officials could be an option, and he understood why the home crowd was in such an uproar over so many controversial calls.
Meanwhile, Tommy Hunt, the director of ACC officials, told the AP he hadn't watched the tape as of Sunday morning, so he couldn't comment specifically on the game.
"When I see the game, if our officials make mistakes, they're held accountable for them," Hunt said. "We've got the best officials in the country, or some of the best, and I stand by that."
Normally, tough calls even out over the course of a game. In this case, however, there were no fewer than six key calls which went against the Gators (8-4).
"I can't say a thing," Zook said. "The only thing I'm going to say is there were enough plays in the game that if we'd have made them, we still would have been all right."
On the opening kickoff, Florida State's Antonio Cromartie fumbled and the Gators recovered. Officials ruled the play over before the fumble, even though Cromartie's knee clearly hadn't touched the ground.
In the third quarter, Florida State's Pat Watkins scooped up a fumble and returned it for a score, even though Florida tailback Ciatrick Fason appeared to be flat on the ground before the ball popped out.
In the fourth quarter, Chris Rix ran for a touchdown and a 31-27 lead four plays after officials awarded the ball to the Seminoles, even though Gators linebacker Channing Crowder came out of the pile with the ball. Leon Washington, who fumbled, appeared to be sitting on the ball when officials made the call.
Hunt defended the crew, led by referee Jack Childress.
"People sit in the stands, they watch the replay four or five times, in slow motion, backward, forward, then they make the call," Hunt said. "We're not in that business. We're in the instantaneous-decision business."
It is common for crews from the visiting team's conference to work interconference games, but there's no steadfast rule calling for it, Foley said.
The Florida-Florida State contract is up for renewal after next year, and Foley said he will look into bringing in a crew from a neutral conference.
But this game is over, and both Foley and Zook know there's nothing they can do.
"It hurts really, really, really bad," Zook said. "It was a heck of football game."
Foley said Peach Bowl officials told him they would like to invite the Gators if they lost. Those invitations, however, won't go out until after Georgia and LSU play Saturday in the Southeastern Conference title game.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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