Kudos to MEAC for adding instant replay; let’s hope SWAC follows

The MEAC’s tentative move toward instant replay — it will be available to league teams whose games are televised in 2011 — is an important step in the right direction. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference commissioner Dennis Thomas confirmed the move during the league’s media day.

“If you look at what had happened with BCS schools, I think on a whole it’s positive,” Thomas said, in published reports. “Even in the NFL, it’s been a positive but it’s not a cure-all for all the mistakes. Even the NFL and BCS make some mistakes with it when you show it on camera.”

More specifically, it could help a series of wrongs that seem to dog both the MEAC and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, where officiating seems to be a point of contention in a dizzying number of games. There are, perhaps, no better candidates for replay than these two leagues, which seem to attract more than their fair share of head-scratching missed calls, phantom penalties and weird rule misinterpretations.

You don’t have to tell the coaches.

Jackson State coach Rick Comegy was suspended for a week last year after a profanity-laced post-game tirade on the officiating, saying: “I thought they (expletive) cheated that game. They took that (expletive) game away from these (expletive) kids.” The MEAC suspended the head linesman for the remainder of the season and reprimanded the football officiating crew after a “misapplication of the rules as it pertains to the chains and down marker” during the Oct. 28 North Carolina A&T game at Bethune-Cookman in 2010, as well.

A year earlier, former Grambling coach Rod Broadway famously said: “We had one touchdown called back on a bogus call,” after the Tigers’ Oct. 10 game against Alabama A&M — comments that later led to an official reprimand. “There were four calls that were touchdown-saving calls — which is, you know, unheard of in this day and time.”

Three MEAC football officials were suspended in 2007 for one game after making what the league called “inaccurate calls” during at Bethune-Cookman game at Norfolk State. The same punishment was handed down by the SWAC in 2006 after a botched call in the closing moments of the Grambling game at Mississippi Valley State.

Those are just the ones that immediately leapt to mind. There are more — many, many more — that never resulted in either a sideline meltdown or an official getting a slap on the wrist.

Instant replay has been badly needed in these leagues for a very long time. The Southwestern Athletic Conference experimented with the concept at its league title game last year; now the MEAC has gone one step further. Let’s hope the SWAC follows suit.

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