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Redding: Officials Need To Consider Perception
Posted Jul 26, 2007 by Aaron Knox
Updated Jul 26, 2007 at 11:23 AM
HOOVER, Ala. — SEC director of officials Rogers Redding said certain officals — including a former Plant High and Florida player who works as an umpire — need to be more aware of how fans perceive their alumni affiliations.
Speaking Thursday at SEC football media days, Redding was asked about Wally Hough, the former Plant and Florida offensive lineman who is entering his 10th season as an umpire on SEC crews. Hough, who lives in Palatka, has been criticized on blogs and Web sites after it was incorrectly reported that he is the president of the Putnam County Gator Club. In a telephone interview Thursday, Hough said his alumni affiliation had no bearing on his job as an official.
Hough said he has served as the Putnam club’s president in the past, but he is not the president now. The club is an affiliate of UF’s alumni association, which primarily raises money for academic scholarships for local students who attend the school. It is not affiliated with Gator Boosters, Inc., the organization that raises funds for Florida’s athletic department.
“I’m not even going to answer that question,” Hough said when asked how he would respond to fans who questioned his objectivity. “That’s a smear and an insult.”
Hough, who lettered at Florida from 1979-81, works as the general manager of a Palatka steakhouse. Before that, he owned C.P. Deli, which featured the Wally Burger, a three-pound burger served with a pound of fries.
Redding said Hough is one of the league’s best umpires. Redding also said officials are not allowed to work games involving their alma maters or former coaches. Still, Redding said he would speak to his officials about their affiliations.
“I’m concerned about some of those issues,” Redding said. “One of the great things about these guys is that many of them are from SEC schools. We make sure they don’t work games with their schools, but we need to be a little more diligent and use a little better judgment about how much they play up their alumni relationship.”
In an interview Wednesday about officiating in the wake of the NBA referee gambling scandal, Hough said he and his fellow SEC officials took very seriously questions about their objectivity.
“It’s very frustrating and very insulting when someone accuses one of my fellow officials,” Hough said.
Several SEC officials played for SEC schools, and Hough’s past is not the first to be questioned by fans. In 2000, Tennessee fans ripped former Vanderbilt receiver Al Matthews, a line judge who ruled that Florida’s Jabar Gaffney caught a Jesse Palmer pass in the final minutes of the Gators’ 27-23 win in Knoxville.
Knowing those associations will be challenged by an increasingly skeptical fan base, Redding said officials need to discuss all their affiliations.
“We need to get the guys,” Redding said, “to be cognizant of the perception.”