National championship 2020: Pac-12 officials for LSU vs. Clemson have been heavily criticized

Three Pac-12 officials assigned to the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson have come under heavy criticism within the last two years.

Two of Monday night's officials were among those downgraded by the Pac-12 earlier this season, according to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner. Furthermore, the title game's referee had previously been criticized by an SEC athletic director for ejecting a player. Line judge Dale Keller and field judge Kevin Kieser were in a crew that was downgraded by the Pac-12 after blunders in a Nov. 9, 2019, game that saw Cal defeat Washington State, 33-20.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock declined comment, as did national officiating supervisor Rogers Redding.

The CFP assigned the Pac-12 as the conference from which an officiating crew would be chosen for the national championship. The Pac-12 is a neutral party with no affiliation to the ACC (Clemson) or SEC (LSU) and did not have a team in the four-team field.

The officials chosen for Monday night's game are considered an all-star assortment as opposed to a crew that worked together all season. Pac-12 officiating supervisor David Coleman chose the officials based on their 2019 season performance.

"The officials selected for the crew officiating tonight's College Football championship were selected based upon their total body of work that includes performance and professionalism throughout the entire season," said Andrew Walker, a Pac-12 spokesman. "Based upon this criteria, each official selected for tonight's game rated No. 1 in their respective officiating position."

CFP National Championship referee Chris Coyte was called out on social media by Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart in January 2018. Coyte ejected star running back Benny Snell in the second quarter after he bumped the official in the Music City Bowl against Northwestern.

Snell was tackled near a sideline by a group of Wildcats. After the play, Coyte seems to reach down to offer Snell assistance to get up. Snell then puts his hands on Coyte's forearms. Snell was immediately and ejected for contact with an official. Coyte received threatening phone calls from Kentucky fans following that game, according to ESPN.

On Jan. 3, 2018, Barnhart tweeted: "Much has been made of the ejection of Benny Snell last week. While this is not something I would typically comment on, I feel it is important to do so since Benny's intentions and character have been called into question. Benny, who has been a quality young man in our program, has my full support and the support of Coach [Mark] Stoops and our football program."

In the Cal-Washington State game earlier this season, the Cougars were mistakenly called for a hands to the face penalty that should have gone against the Bears. The gaffe resulted in a 57-yard difference in field position.

Pac-12 officials have come under criticism both inside and outside the league over recent years. An independent review of Pac-12 officiating commissioned by the league itself found in July that it was "predominantly consistent with industry best practice …"

SEC officials were criticized for calls in the CFP Fiesta Bowl semifinal between No. 2 Ohio State and No.3 Clemson.

Footballzebras.com first reported the members of Monday's officiating crew.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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