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SEC stiffens penalties for complaining coaches

NEW YORK (AP) — Southeastern Conference coaches will face stiffer penalties from now on for complaining about officiating in the media.

Commissioner Mike Slive told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday that coaches who violate the conferences' ethics rules against criticizing officials in public will face a fine or suspension instead of receiving public reprimands when they first act up.

"On rare occasions over the last seven years there were several private reprimands and that took care of the matter," said Slive, in his eighth year as the SEC's leader. "On occasion there were public reprimands and that took care of it. It became clear to me after last week that I was no longer interested in reprimands and the conference athletic directors and university presidents unanimously agreed.

"For the foreseeable future there will be no reprimands," Slive added. "We will go right to suspensions and fines." The decision by Slive comes after three coaches were reprimanded in the last two weeks, including Tennessee's Lane Kiffin. The coach received his second reprimand earlier this week for complaining about the officiating in a loss to Alabama on Saturday.

Slive said a memorandum was sent by the league office on Friday to every school making them aware of the change, which is effective immediately. With approval from the league's presidents and ADs, Slive will have full discretion in handing down punishment.

"We fully expect and anticipate that we will have the full cooperation of our coaches from this day forward," he said.

The SEC's officiating, and public complaints by a few coaches about it, has drawn plenty of unwanted attention to Slive's conference.

Last week, an SEC officiating crew was suspended after it called penalties the league said were not supported by video evidence in the LSU-Georgia game on Oct. 3 and the Arkansas-Florida game on Oct. 17.

The SEC publicly announced the suspensions, an unprecedented move by the conference. The next day, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was reprimanded by Slive for making critical statements about officiating in the Razorbacks' 23-20 loss at Florida.

Then on Sunday, Kiffin and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen each went off on the officiating in their Saturday games. Kiffin's Volunteers lost 12-10 at Alabama and Mullen's Bulldogs lost 29-19 to Florida in Starkville, Miss.

The SEC responded on Monday by reprimanding both coaches for violating league ethics rules. The league made no public admonishment of the calls that Kiffin and Mullen complained about.

Kiffin made it clear he was not worried about getting a reprimand for his comments. "I'm sure we'll get one of those letters that really means nothing as Bobby got last week, but Florida and Alabama live on," he said Sunday.

But Kiffin's reprimand was his second of the year and it came with a warning from Slive, who said that another would result in a stiffer penalty, such as a fine or suspension.

Kiffin received his first reprimand in February for accusing Florida coach Urban Meyer of violating recruiting rules.

Kiffin and Meyer tossed a few verbal jabs at each other in the following months and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier even weighed in about Kiffin at one point.

Slive twice this year has talked to Meyer and Kiffin about all the chatter.