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Home > Football, Sport > Meyer, Slive and the Bill Russell Effect

Meyer, Slive and the Bill Russell Effect

November 6th, 2009

The commissioner of the SEC (the Southern Fat Cat one, not the Wall Street Fat Cat one) sent out an edict last week stating that it was no longer open season on officials. This year, we’ve seen more criticism of officiating than is the norm.

Your Mississippi States, Kentuckys and Vanderbilts have always been on the short end of the stick when playing conference elites, but I tend to agree with Philip from Save the Shield‘s view that this is probably subconscious bias and not outright conspiracy. Well, Lane Kiffin (Tennessee) and others started promoting the idea that it was outright conspiracy and an effort to get Florida and Bama into the Georgia Dome undefeated. Dan Mullen (MSU) and Kiffin were each reprimanded, though the SEC ignored the very valid complaints of Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt) that same week — probably because Johnson only suggested incompetence and not conspiracy.

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Well, Urban Meyer went ahead and complained about the above hit on Tim Tebowby Nick Williams of Georgia. No flag was thrown on this dirty and clearly illegal late hit (so much for those who argue that this year ushered in the idea of a “Roughing the Brady / Tebow” flag).

Everyone knew that Mike Slive was going to punish Meyer. But would the punishment fit the crime (nothing Meyer said was untrue and he didn’t allege conspiracy) or would it be the Bill Russell Effect.

The great Celtics center was not only the best rebounder in NBA history, he was also a genuinely nice person who lacked a very mean streak. Legendary Coach Red Auerbach (as recollected here by August Roc) convinced Russell to make a statement early in his career that he couldn’t just be pushed around as a nice guy. He picked a nationally televised game and convinced Russell that if he threw one vicious elbow on the inside, he’d never have to do it again. Sure enough, Russell dropped a dude and established himself as a person not to F with.

Mike Slive pulled a Bill Russell today in fining Urban Meyer. No, he didn’t suspend or go overboard on Meyer (the fine was $30,000, very manageable for a guy making $4,000,000 per year). Nevertheless, the fine was disproportionately large given the offense. I expected a $5,000 or $10,000 fine.

Slive certainly realized that Meyer, intentionally or not, was testing the new edict on discussing officiating. The SEC knew that if they didn’t throw the elbow today, they’d have a hard time convincing coaches to follow the rules and keep their traps shut. Meyer can afford it, but he just took one right on the chin.

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