South Carolina State head football coach Buddy Pough gladly shared a table for lunch with a college football official on Thursday at the weekly meeting of the Orangeburg Touchdown Club.

Of course, it was former Southeastern Conference head of officials and current Atlantic Coast Conference/Big South Conference replay official Penn Wagers, who was in town to serve as the OTC guest speaker.

Wagers, from Dorchester County, got his start in college football officiating from longtime S.C. State coach Willie Jeffries (current OTC emcee), who got him in touch with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference officials years ago.

On Thursday, Wagers shared some interesting officiating stories and answered questions on rules and rules interpretations in today's college game.

"Coach Jeffries did contact the head of officials in the MEAC for me at one time, and that gave me my first start in college officiating," Wagers said. "I had been an official for years in the high school ranks and wanted to work my way up to the next level.

"I later spent 14 years in the Southeastern Conference, before moving to work with the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2015, which was my last year on the field. Last year was my first full year working on replay up in the booth. And, I can tell you, this is the best thing since sliced bread for me."

For all of the SEC and ACC fans who dedicated comment after comment on webpages trashing Wagers' calls in major games throughout his career, none have posted comments since he has moved to the replay booth to help on-field officials get calls correct.

Wagers mentioned that NCAA college football rules don't get adjusted or fully changed during odd-numbered years, unless it deals with a safety issue that seems urgent. During even-numbered years, changes are made and instituted to try to make the sport better for both the student-athletes and the fans viewing the games in person and from home on their TV screens.

"When we see a play, we have to wait for the referee - the guy with the white hat - to announce the ruling on the field," Wagers said. "For example, when he says 'we have pass interference, with targeting..., play is under further review,' that is what he tells us and lets us know we have two things (in the penalty).

"If we determine, based on replay video, that it is not targeting on the play, the pass interference call still stands. We look for red flags, the attempt to punish an opposing player by launching up into him or down into him, or hitting with the crown (top, front to back) of the helmet. We want to get any play that could paralyze or otherwise permanently injure a player out of the game of football."

Wagers added the point that officials regularly rule on the side of a "defenseless" player who is hit on a play.

"Defenseless players are receivers who are only looking at the ball in the air or are in mid-air going for a ball, kickers, and a quarterback once he releases a ball and he is clearly out of the play," Wagers said. "A ball carrier, running with the ball, is not considered a defenseless player."

Wagers was asked if he believed any rule needs to be changed or added for college football officials.

"We've had so many changes and additions to rules, that I don't even want to think about changing or adding any more," he said. "I just don't have anything else that we're doing that we need to refine.

"Our rules are there. We just have to understand the interpretation of why the rules are there and what they are there for. That is a problem. If I can say one thing, it's that we all need to understand what those rules say. If anything, there should be more emphasis on why each rule is in the rule book."

Also during Thursday's OTC meeting, Holly Hill Academy's Demetrius Abraham and Orangeburg-Wilkinson's Jelani Haigler were presented as ATI Physical Therapy Players of the Week.

The next Orangeburg Touchdown Club meeting is set for Thursday, Oct. 12, with guest speaker John Currie, University of Tennessee athletic director. Currie will be in town speaking 48 hours before South Carolina football plays the Volunteers in Knoxville on Saturday, Oct. 14.


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