Steve Shaw _lowres

SEC Coordinator of Officials, Steve Shaw, speaks to the media about rule changes at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) ORG XMIT: ALBD103

HOOVER, Ala. — Steve Shaw, the Southeastern Conference's Coordinator of Football Officials, said Tuesday that league commissioner Greg Sankey "challenged" the conference's officials "to look at ways to get better" following a controversy-filled 2018 season.

The challenge led Shaw and the SEC officiating program to take an inward look at its policies, which included hiring a consulting firm in the spring to speak with SEC coaches and athletic directors, study game reports and officiating performance reviews, and compare the league's policies with other sporting entities around the world.

"I think as an outcome of this, you're going to see us embrace some new ideas," Shaw said at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama.

The new ideas mostly focus on improving communication between the league's officials and its coaches.

The SEC sent its head officials to Destin, Florida, during its annual spring meetings to spend time with the conference's head coaches, and officiating crews will go to each campus during the preseason for a two-day camp.

Sankey announced Monday that a sideline monitor will be added at all football games for official reviews, which will allow the on-field referees to review the play, communicate with the in-stadium replay booth and the SEC's video center.

With the sideline monitor, Shaw said, officials will also be able to communicate better with the coaches on the field about the plays that are being reviewed and give clearer answers on the decisions that are made.

Shaw had plenty incentive in the 2018 season to foster better communication with coaches, although Sankey said the changes didn't have anything to do with any one play or game.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said at SEC spring meetings that he called Shaw at 6 a.m. the morning following the Tigers' seven-overtime, 74-72 loss to Texas A&M in the regular season finale.

Since that game, Orgeron has said frequently that he believes there were several calls that went against LSU that shouldn't have that eventually cost them the game.

The calls included a pass interference called on former cornerback Greedy Williams late in the seventh overtime that eventually led to Texas A&M's game-winning score — a call that Shaw later said could have been handled differently.

"I was angry," Orgeron said at SEC spring meetings. "He answered my question. He answered my phone call... We talked about it. There were several things I wanted to talk to him about. We spoke several times that day, so I gotta give him credit on that."


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The SEC's new efforts to improve communication come ahead of several new changes to the rules in college football, including the targeting penalty, which has been the center of plenty of controversy.

Starting this season, officials must identify all the elements of targeting in official review in order to eject a player, which will make the sideline monitor all the more handy in communication between officials and coaches.

LSU was on the receiving end of a highly controversial targeting penalty against All-American linebacker Devin White, who was ejected late in a game against Mississippi State and had to sit out the first half of a Top 3 matchup against Alabama.

The NCAA's new all-or-nothing standard for targeting could reduce the amount of targeting penalties that are enforced. Shaw said 12 percent of targeting fouls in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season were upheld because the officials couldn't find enough evidence either way in the review and let the play on the field stand. That will no longer be an option.

"Will that (percentage) hold?" Shaw said. "I don't know, but that's kind of the back data."

Players who commit three targeting fouls in a season will now also be disqualified for the entirety of his team's next game, a two-man wedge on kickoff returns is now illegal, along with blind-side blocks and defenders blocking below the waist.

Shaw also directly referenced LSU when discussing the NCAA's new overtime policy, which states that beginning with the fifth overtime, teams will then trade off two-point attempts instead of starting another full possession at their opponent's 25.

"At some point, we've got to get the players off the field," Shaw said. "However, nobody wants a tie... It's a way to still ultimately decide the game, but there's too many plays. This will be a great way to do it without changing the fabric of overtime."

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.