ATHENS — Gary Danielson grants he wasn’t as “eloquent” as he could have been in airing what Kirby Smart told him about turning in Auburn plays to the SEC. But Danielson stands by what he said, and going public with it in advance of the SEC Championship Game.
And Smart should send Danielson a thank-you note for the whole thing, according to Danielson’s broadcast partner.
That was the takeaway from Danielson and his play-by-play partner, Brad Nessler, who will call Saturday’s championship game between Georgia and Auburn. And they spent the first couple minutes of a teleconference Wednesday shining some light on an issue that came up during the weekend.
The background: Danielson, as Auburn’s win over Alabama neared an end, told viewers that Smart had told him he had turned in six plays to the SEC in which Smart felt Auburn defenders had been holding in its 40-17 win over Georgia on Nov. 11. The comments came during a production meeting six days after the game, as Georgia was preparing to play Kentucky. When Smart was asked about that this past Monday at his press conference, he offered a three-word response: “Yeah, no comment.”
Danielson, speaking during a CBS teleconference Wednesday, did not back down from the accuracy of the comments or going public with them.
“I can only say that I’m comfortable with the information that I presented during the game. And I think Kirby will be, too. And if he isn’t it’s really not my problem,” Danielson said. “I work very heard at developing a trust with the coaches that what they tell me is fair game, and the fine line of off-the-record and on-the-record sometimes gets uncomfortable, but I don’t think I crossed any lines, and I don’t think Kirby thinks I crossed any lines.”
Smart’s response – the no-comment – was completely understandable, given that he can’t comment publicly on the officiating.
“I don’t think I was the most eloquent Gary I could have been,” Danielson said. “I would like to do it over.”
But he doesn’t regret bringing it up and stands by the accuracy of what he said.
“I thought the fans deserved, because of the next game being so important, and that it was a rematch. It wouldn’t have come up if it wasn’t a rematch,” Danielson said. “The fans deserved that this was an issue. And I didn’t think that it being kept in-house where only the officials and the two coaches were aware of it. I think the fans have a right to know it. And it wasn’t anything that was hidden, in my humble opinion.”
Brad Nessler jumped in to offer his take: It was fairly routine and Smart wasn’t very animated when he mentioned it during that pre-Kentucky production meeting.
“He didn’t make that big deal about it, and neither did we, because I thought it’s something routine. I hear it all the time,” Nessler said. “If I was Kirby I’d send Gary a thank-you note. Because I’ve watched John Calipari do this for his whole lifetime in coaching. He works refs in the first half so he can get a call in the second half. So if a broadcaster brings something up I would look at it as a positive and not a negative.”
Danielson also said he and Smart haven’t talked since then about it.
“Kirby and I do no talk on a regular basis, we don’t exchange numbers, we don’t text with each other, I don’t do that with any of the coaches,” Danielson said.
But what about the legitimacy of Smart’s beef? Did Auburn indeed hold?
Georgia was penalized 7 times for 75 yards, including 4 penalties of 15 yards each. Auburn was called for 5 penalties that totaled 29 yards. Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was 13-for-28 passing for 184 yards with 1 touchdown throw.
“All coaches express disappointment in calls from previous losses to us. It’s not unusual. It’s been happening for 25-plus years. And they all have the right to turn in their questions to whichever officiating office. This is not something that’s come out of the blue that I’ve never heard before,” Danielson said. “I am aware that Auburn plays a lot of strong, bump-and-run, man-to-man coverage. But that’s not any different from the way Florida plays it, people complaining about Florida, or the way Alabama’s played in the past, and people complaining about Alabama. This is a common gripe that everyone has weekly.
“And the integrity of the SEC officials, I mean they understand the microscope and the criticism that they come under because of all the calls are so big. I get criticized, coaches get criticized, players get criticized, officials get criticized. This is a big-boy league, and I don’t see why it would have an impact on this game at all.”
Maybe not. But it makes for some good fodder during the week.