SEC clarifies cowbell compromise


Matthew Stevens



The Southeastern Conference clarified its wording of the artificial noisemaker rule Friday, specifically known to Mississippi State fans as the "cowbell compromise."


The amendment voted on at the league's annual meetings in Destin, Florida, will allow "the use of institutionally controlled, computerized sound systems (including music), institutionally controlled artificial noisemakers, and traditional institutional noisemakers at any time, except from the time the offensive center is over the football until the play is whistled dead."


"This proposal will enhance the fan experience and provide institutions with the flexibility to appeal to their fans by the use of musical and institutionally-controlled noise," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a written statement.



Under the previous rule, the policy allowed fans to ring a cowbell before the game, at halftime, between quarters, during timeouts, after scoring plays, and during possession changes.


The league imposed a $25,000 fine on MSU for violation of the SEC's Artificial Noisemaker Policy last football season. Further violations by the Bulldogs program will result in a $50,000 fine. Slive announced the fine last December. It was the first monetary fine for the school since the end of the 2010 season. Slive made it clear more severe penalties could come if MSU's fans don't 'ring responsibly' and follow the school's marketing campaign.


"By virtue of the current legislation, the conference has recognized this long-standing tradition at Mississippi State," Slive said in December. "It should be noted, however, that continued violation of the policy could lead not only to substantially higher financial penalties for the institution, but also to a review of the existing legislation concerning artificial noisemakers."


After an 11-0 vote in 2011, SEC school presidents approved extending the temporary change to the artificial noisemaker policy that was drawn up in 2010 to allow MSU fans to bring cowbells to campus football stadiums. The SEC banned cowbells, which is one symbol that is recognized to stand for MSU, from 1974-2010.


"The cowbell is one of our most cherished traditions here at Mississippi State," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said in December. "Our fans have done a great job in following our guidelines in adhering to the SEC policies related to artificial noisemakers the last couple of years, but we must remain diligent in this matter and not allow lapses to occur in the future. We strive to educate our fans on ringing responsibly at appropriate times during home games at Davis Wade Stadium, and will continue that education so we may keep this time-honored tradition alive as a major part of our program's heritage."


MSU fans still won't be allowed to bring or ring a cowbell in an opponent's stadium.


"(MSU president) Dr. (Mark) Keenum and I have worked closely with our SEC counterparts to preserve this unique tradition. This recent development underscores the fact that we must redouble our efforts to educate our fans and alumni about the need to 'ring responsibly' and the serious consequences of failing to comply with league policies," Stricklin said.



SEC to experiment with eight-man referee crew in 2014 season


The SEC will experiment with one more official on the field, and evaluate after the season whether to adopt it permanently.


When an offense is in a no-huddle, the center-judge will be in charge of spotting the football. That frees up the referee and umpire to handle their other pre-snap duties and to get into position.


"This gives us another set of eyes," SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw said.


Of the nine officiating crews employed by the SEC, one of those crews will get an eighth official. That eighth referee will be a center judge and wear a "C" on his back. He will be positioned in the offensive backfield, opposite the referee.


That crew will rotate around to see every one of the 14 SEC teams this year. That way each team and its coaches will be able to provide feedback to the conference office before the issue could be voted on before the 2015 season.


Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.




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