This analysis is partially erroneous. It doesn't consider at what point in the game and the circumstances surrounding the penalty. A more interesting analysis would be penalties in the final 2-3 minutes of a game.
Travel from one coast to the other and listen in on any group of sports fans — pro or college, hoops or football, baseball or hockey — and you’ll quickly come to the realization that darn near everyone feels their favorite team is being cheated by the officials.
Now, we could spend a lot of time detailing why these theories persist — simple answer: no one can just accept losing — but we’ve chosen instead to dig inside the numbers to see if certain teams really do get the benefit of officials’ whistles more often than others. Specifically, we wanted to see which SEC stadiums provided the biggest boost for their occupants.
Below you’ll find several sets of numbers. We have gone back over five years of official NCAA data to see just how many many penalties have been called (and accepted) against each SEC school in its own home stadium. Then, we examined that same period (2008-2012) to see how many penalties road teams have wracked up in those buildings.
Let’s start with the home team data. Below are the penalty numbers for each SEC football team in its own park between 2008 and 2012, listed from best to worst:
|School||Home Games||Total Penalties||Avg. Penalties / Home Game|
And there you have it! Proof that Alabama gets all the calls in Tuscaloosa.
Well, that’s how some will take it, of course. The reality is that if SEC officials were looking out for Alabama then they must also have been in the bag for Kentucky. And we’re talking football here, not basketball (which is a completely different conspiracy theory).
Interestingly, most of the league’s strongest teams over the past five seasons — Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, Florida — have all had oodles of yellow hankies heaved in their directions while playing at home.
Now let’s take a look at the number of penalties called against visiting teams at each of those SEC stadiums from 2008 through 2012, listed from best to worst:
|School||Home Games||Opp. Total Penalties||Opp. Avg. Penalties / Home Game|
Looking at those numbers, either Big XII officials like to throw a whole lotta flags or Kyle Field and Faurot Field are darned intimidating. Once again, at the bottom of the list are three pretty good programs over the past five years — Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. Those three — when playing at home — only see about five flags per game thrown at their opponents.
What exactly does that mean?
Well, let’s compare the two tables above to see which schools have gotten the biggest advantage in terms of home-game penalties over the past five seasons:
|School||Avg. Penalties / Home Game||Opp. Avg. Penalties / Home Game||Penalty Diff. / Home Game|
|Miss. State||4.96||6.75||+ 1.79|
|Texas A&M||6.61||7.38||+ 0.77|
|Ole Miss||4.74||5.37||+ 0.63|
|S. Carolina||5.37||5.14||– 0.23|
The big takeaway? That there has been no conspiracy when it comes to flag-tossing refs in the Southeastern Conference. By this measure, over the past five years Mississippi State has actually benefited the most from playing in its home stadium.
Missouri, Alabama and Kentucky all — on average — have seen their opponents called for about one more penalty per game than they have been.
On the other end of the spectrum, Georgia, Florida and Auburn all tend to be called for penalties about once more per home game than their foes.
Later today we’ll take a look at the difference in penalty numbers between each school’s home and road games to see if there’s any type of trend that might stand out in that area. But from the above numbers, it doesn’t appear that stadium size or a team’s record have very much impact on how penalties are called in SEC football games.