UnNews:Pac-10 suspends officials for errors that cost Oklahoma
20 September 2006
UnNews Sports Wire
NORMAN, Oklahoma -- The Pacific-10 Conference suspended for one game the officiating crew and the instant replay officials that worked Saturday's Oklahoma-Oregon football game after finding mistakes in judgement made by the officals near the end of the contest.
Oklahoma lost the game 34-33 after Oregon scored two touchdowns within a span of 50 seconds near the end of the game. This game included some highly irregular plays within the final minute.
An onside kick by Oregon after its first late touchdown was touched by a Ducks player before it traveled the required 10 yards, and the Pac-10 ruled that the ball should have been awarded to Oklahoma. The league also said that video revealed that an Oklahoma player actually recovered the ball.
During a subsequent play, pass interference was called on Oklahoma. The Sooners argued that the ball had been tipped at the line of scrimmage, thereby nullifying the pass interference call. At this point, Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops was ejected from the game for complaining about the calls.
On the following play, Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon found referee Gordon Riese in the end zone in a play that was ruled a touchdown. While Oklahoma was arguing this call, Oregon kicked the extra point and Oklahoma was found offsides. In an unprecedented move, instead of the usual 5-yard penalty awarded for this on the kickoff, Oregon was given another couple of points, thus giving them a one-point lead.
Despite the fact the officials were on the Pac-10 payroll, Oklahoma continued to play hard. Return man Reggie Smith took the ensuing squib kick and returned it to Oregon 27. It was here that Oklahoma's kicker Garret Hartley, who hadn't missed a kick all year, had his last-second field goal attempt blocked by the entire officiating crew.
"The fact that the errors in judgement on the part of the officials in the final minutes altered the outcome of the game is most unfortunate and unsettling," Pac-10 Commisioner Phil Hansen said in a statement. "We had a solid veteran crew assigned. We believe in the ability and integrity of each individual involved. Game officials and replay officials have positions of great responsibility and must be accountable for their actions.
"Errors in judgement clearly were made and not corrected, and for that we apologize to the University of Oklahoma, coach Bob Stoops and his players. They played an outstanding college football game, and it is regrettable that the outcome of the contest was affected by the officiating."
After the Sooners' practice Monday night, Stoops said the apology brought him no satisfaction.
"I've made a million mistakes. I'll make a million more in each game, and in that game included, I wish there were things I could have done differently or changed," Stoops said. "Unlike officials, players and coaches don't have that opportunity. They had an opportunity to get it right and they chose not to, then they chose to begin running plays for the other team. I find this absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable."
ESPN Sports commentator Doug Gottlieb doesn't see what the fuss is about. "Look, the fact of the matter is that Oklahoma still had a chance to stop Oregon from scoring, or to return the kick for a touchdown, and didn't. Of the 501 yards allowed by the Sooners that day, only 30 of them were gained by officials. Oklahoma should stop complaining about the refs, they should try looking in the mirror first."
University of Oklahoma president David Boren sent a letter Monday to Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, saying the officiating problems was beyond an "outrageous injustice," and asking him to pursue having the game eliminated from the record books and having the officials involved in the game suspended for the remainder of the season.
Weiberg responded with a statement saying the result of the game would stand.
"There is no provision under NCAA or conference rules for a game result to be reversed or changed as a result of officiating errors, no matter how egregious, nor do I believe there should be," he said.
Boren acknowledged the Pac-10's response to the situation.
"I appreciate the apology issued by the Pac-10 Commissioner and his action in penalizing the game officials," Boren said in a statement. "I hope this will lead to further national review of the responsibilities of officials and the way in which they interact with players on the field. I also hope this situation will lead the Pac-10 to change their policy of requiring that only officials of the Pac-10 officiate the home games of Pac-10 universities when they are hosting a non-conference opponent."
Weiberg didn't see the last concern being resolved either.
"This policy is well known nationally and institutions, including OU, know this to be the case at the time of entering into contracts to play Pac-10 opponents," he said.
Boren has said that officials are often blamed for "costing a team the game," but this is the first instance he has ever heard of the officals actually assisting the home team to win in a literal fashion.
The University of Oklahoma also released a statement that said that recent mysterios outbreak of E. coli in Oklahoma is "almost definitely not" fooball-related, though they are continuing to pursue that possibility.
- ESPN News team "Pac-10 suspends officials for errors that cost Oklahoma." ESPN News services, September 19, 2006
- ESPN News team "Oregon ousts Oklahoma with help of late controversial call." ESPN News services, September 16, 2006
- ESPN News team "Replay official reports death threat; can't eat, sleep." ESPN News services, September 18, 2006