In what was an already unprecedented season for all of college football, the Razorback football program is standing out from the pack in ways never seen before.
It started on Saturday, when Razorbacks athletic director Hunter Yurachek Tweeted how outraged he was by the unfair hip check ejection of Jalen Catalon at end of that LSU-Arkansas game:
I cannot change the outcome or any of the other missed calls, but I will work with the appropriate SEC Officials to make sure that this “targeting” call does not cost Jalen Catalon our next game. My student-athletes deserve better. pic.twitter.com/vGEd20u0FB— Hunter Yurachek (@HunterYurachek) November 21, 2020
No SEC athletic director had ever been so outspoken in publicly criticizing SEC referees. Of course, Yurachek had good reason to gnash his teeth. Arkansas had already been hosed by officials at the end of the Auburn game, and this Catalon call had the potential to not just hurt Arkansas in the LSU game (which it did), but could also damage the Hogs’ chances against Missouri this upcoming Saturday.
The call was so bad that even Henry Huber, a columnist for LSU’s student newspaper, wrote that targeting was unwarranted: “In terms of being unavoidable, Jalen Catalon’s hit takes the cake. The LSU receiver he hit, Kayshon Boutte, slid into a position where Catalon would’ve had to jump out of the way to avoid getting a targeting call.”
The majority of the college football world agreed with Yurachek on this.
Unfortunately, the SEC office doesn’t care.
On Monday, Hogs coach Sam Pittman said no reviewing or appealing of the call on the field was possible. “Once it goes under review if you have the appropriate amount of tape for their reviewing then whatever their call is then it stands,” he said.
“You can’t petition that. You just live with it. That’s what we were told. So he will be out for the first half of the Missouri game and – you know video review should be able to get those calls correct. And so that was the feeling of video review that they had ample time to make the correct call on the field.”
Pittman relayed it in his typical matter-of-fact, make-no-excuses way. He’s not one to cry over spilled red flags and there’s no reason for that to change now. Pittman chose not to linger on a call that apparently can’t be changed.
The same can’t be said for some Arkansas fans.
One, Landon Leach, wants answers about why Catalon”s ejection from the first half of the Missouri game can’t be appeal in light of the SEC’s own bylaws:
So y’all are saying there is no appeal once the decision is made on the field?! Please tell me why your own website and rules say differently?! @SECOfficiating @GregSankey #FreeCatalon pic.twitter.com/kG3bQ6vvcZ— Landon Leach (@lmleach4) November 23, 2020
Another fan felt so frustrated by the SEC’s inept referees and Arkansas’ offensive showing against LSU that he decided to take a dig at Pittman for it.
“I get it — Coach Pittman is a great guy,” Jeffrey Foreman Tweeted. “But sometimes for the long-term betterment for your program you got to stand up and call it/who for what it is!”
Well, Pittman himself didn’t take too kindly to this accusation that he wasn’t standing up for his program.
On Twitter, Pittman shot back:
Don’t ever tell Sam Pittman he doesn’t stand up for his players. https://t.co/Owd2OvGPG5— John R Nabors ?????? (@BuzzJohnNabors) November 23, 2020
These are some strong words for a head coach to say openly to a fan. Sure, it’s possible Lane Kiffin might have done something like this before, especially at the end of his USC head coaching tenure when he was ruining the pocket books of Trojan fans who were online betting in California.
But this kind of backlash is very rare, if not unprecedented. Power 5 head coaches just don’t publicly criticize fan of their own programs.
Some of why Pittman did this may understand why Pittman slightly lost his cool here it’s important to consider this isn’t your normal fan. While a lot of fans yell at the TV or vent on message boards and social media, most don’t take direct aim at the football program they “love” and let loose a molten stream of expletives on it.
Yet that’s what Foreman did.
Here’s a PG-rated example of what he Tweeted to his 73 followers on Saturday:
Hey @RazorbackFB offense can you please wake up? My god— Jeffrey Foreman (@jsfore43) November 21, 2020
He also produced these gems:
- “Frkn @RazorbackFB what the hell? My god…going to be that frkn kind of day”
- “Absolutely gonna have a stroke at this rate with the lack of @RazorbackFB offense. Just unbelievable they can’t move the ball. Wish the damn OL could actually perform”
- “Wtf is this playcalling..3 straight runs by your whole…golly”
- “Got to get [Hudson] Clark out of there….maybe he makes a play but hasn’t”
- “You got to give your rb a touch in that series. Felipe can’t stay on is feet to save his life right now”
It’s highly probable Pittman was aware of this Scrooge from how much he had been hitting up the Razorback football program Twitter account directly.
If Foreman were a true fan, he would stop treating this Hogs staff like Chad Morris was still in charge and everything was FUBAR. Instead, he’d acknowledge that there are plenty of positives mixed in with the negatives that come with any tough loss like that.
But that would take reason, which Foreman isn’t keen on showing. Instead, Foreman decided to make a series of attacks on the players’ abilities, on offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ acumen and even on the courage and integrity of Pittman himself.
He crossed a line, and Pittman was right to push back.
What’s Next for Targeting Rules?
A total revamp, hopefully.
As Catalon’s case shows, the refs shouldn’t lump all targeting penalties into the same box. Some are vicious and deserve an ejection not only in that game, but the following game.
But others, like Catalon’s, involve players who couldn’t have done anything else other than opt out of trying to make a stop altogether.
As the LSU Reveille‘s Henry Huber points out, “Protecting the players should always be the NCAA’s top priority, but they shouldn’t inflict punishments that are detrimental to the game. Having a penalty with so much grey area and subjectivity around it that has the potential to greatly impact a game will cause a lot more controversy if something isn’t done to adjust it.”
Huber makes a recommendation with which any sane fan should agree: “There should be two levels of targeting, one where there’s just a fifteen-yard penalty and one that includes both the fifteen-yard penalty and ejection. Conditions that make the two levels different should revolve around intention, if the hit is avoidable, if their leading with their head and chance of injury.”
This is something longtime SEC analyst Mike Bratton and his cousin co-host Shane also think should happen. “There’s a difference between a personal foul and just technical issues,”Shane says.
To address that difference, targeting needs two levels of penalty — one for more serious and another for less serious. “We’re already doing this in the game now with face masks, there’s the five yard face mask, there’s 15 yards. There’s a five yard running into a kicker penalty, and there’s a 15-yard penalty,” Shane says.
Razorback fans who don’t think Arkansas gets love outside of the state should hear how Hog-sympathetic Mike and Shane get on their podcast. They talk about LSU-Arkansa and the Catalon travesty starting at 4:00 here:
After it was announced on Monday evening that the Missouri-Arkansas game was postponed due to COVID-19, Bratton had a good idea for how Catalon’s punishment should be carried out:
The SEC should do the right thing and allow Jalen Catalon to serve his half-game suspension this weekend now that Arkansas is off.— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) November 23, 2020
Pittman talks more about the reasons why Arkansas fell to LSU below:
For our latest post, see this: