ATHENS - For the second time in three years, the SEC has declined to suspend a defensive player for a hit on Aaron Murray.
The SEC office announced on Friday morning that Alabama defensive end Quinton Dial will not be suspended for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Murray during the SEC championship game. Any discipline for the Crimson Tide junior will be "handled internally," according to the conference.
Thus, Dial will be able to play in the BCS championship game on Jan. 7. Dial has played in 12 games this year for Alabama, recording 21 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks.
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The SEC said this in a statement:
"The Southeastern Conference has completed its review of video from the 2012 SEC Football Championship Game. Several plays involving both teams were reviewed. After review, all subsequent action will be handled internally by the two institutions and the conference office is satisfied with their actions."
Dial's hit came after Murray threw an interception downfield late in the first half. Murray was away from the play, and Dial hit him from the side.
There was no penalty on the play, but SEC director of officiating Steve Shaw later told the Birmingham News that a penalty should have been called.
According to AL.com, Shaw told a Birmingham radio station, ESPN 97.3, that the nature of the play was "very different" than three others that have led to one-game suspensions over the past two years.
"This was an interception return. The player being blocked, no question he was the quarterback, but if he moved to participate in the play, he's a defender," Shaw said, according to AL.com. "From an officiating perspective, we had a missed call. There should have been a flag on the play for a personal foul, unnecessary roughness."
Two years ago, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was not suspended after spearing Murray in the back during a game. Fairley was thus allowed to play in the ensuing Iron Bowl.
UGA athletics director Greg McGarity expressed his disagreement two years ago on the Fairley ruling. This time, McGarity declined immediate comment, saying UGA would release a statement later in the day.
UPDATE: Here is Georgia's statement, which is, well, not much of one:
"The conference office has conducted its review of the SEC championship game, and we respect the decision of any action being handled internally by the institutions."
Georgia head coach Mark Richt, speaking after Friday's practice, echoed that.
"I trust our commissioner with any decision he makes in those types of matters. And that's about it."
"There's a helmet-to-helmet hit on almost every play," Richt said. "I don't know if that's really the - I mean how many times does a running back run a ball, and drives forward, and here comes a tackler, and - "
Richt made a motion to simulate impact.
As for the idea that Murray wasn't looking when he was it, Richt declined to comment.
"I don't want to get into it right now," Richt said. "But I think everybody's trying to do what's right by the rules."