Friday, November 6, 2015

Replay/review: Do it right, give the victory to Duke

     When a friend on Facebook posted the ESPN story about the officials in the Miami-Duke football game being suspended for the next two weeks, here is how I responded:
      I quote myself -- "That is not enough. That was a crime. What was the replay official seeing. That's the guy who never should do that job again. The ACC commissioner and/or executive committee should give the victory to Duke. And Miami players and interim [head] coach were acting like they deserved the win. It was all detestable."
     It was one of the worst "jobs" I've seen in sports.
Is there any doubt that Miami player Mark Walton's knee was down before
he lateraled the football -- one of the eight laterals on the controversial
kickoff return against Duke? How did the replay official not see this?
(photo by Grant Shorin, Duke Sports Information) 
     So Miami had eight laterals on the kickoff return that was ruled a touchdown, wiping out Duke's 27-24 lead. Duke had just scored the go-ahead touchdown, and all it had to do was kick off and survive the 6 seconds remaining on the clock.
     Miami: eight laterals, what was an "official" 75-yard TD return, two blocks in the back and one player running onto the field without his helmet before the play ended. And a victory celebration that should have been Duke's.
     On one of the laterals, the Miami player's knee clearly -- clearly -- is on the ground, with him holding the football. He was down.
     How in the heck did the replay official not see that? Unbelievable.
     You can give the on-field officials an "out" for missing the blocking-in-the-back calls, considering the wildness of the play and that the officials probably had to run and stop and run and reverse directions while the play developed.
     But, absolutely, there is no excuse for the replay official. That's why he's up there in the booth. It took him nine minutes to look at the play repeatedly -- and still make the wrong call.
     It's a crime.
     Instant replay or "the play is under review" is, I believe, one of the best things that's happened in sports recently.
     Let's get the calls right, no matter how long it takes. If you have the technology for replay and review, let's use it.
     Don't mind it in baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL and certainly in college football. And for those few of you who care, it should be used more in soccer, where players try to get away with anything they can.
     In trading e-mail messages with an old friend last week, he said he is not a replay/review fan in baseball. He'd rather have the human element -- umpires' calls -- remain as they were before the past couple of years, that the human element is part of the game.
     I politely disagree. I say this knowing that the Yankees have won a few championships with the benefit of umpires' mistakes. And ask St. Louis Cardinals' fans about the 1985 Kansas City Royals winning the World Series.
     In that vein, if college football had had replay/review in 1972, the clock would have run out on LSU against Ole Miss. No extra second and no last-play touchdown pass and winning PAT kick.
     And how many more games would have ended differently? One I can think of immediately is the "fifth down" Colorado victory against Missouri in 1990. How crucial was that extra play. It helped Colorado score a last-play touchdown and win 33-31, and it merely -- merrily -- went on to win a share of the national championship.
      A replay official probably would have changed that one, and Colorado coach Bill McCartney -- a deeply religious man -- was indignant afterward when it was suggested Colorado forfeit the victory. As I saw on an ESPN "30 for 30" feature on McCartney last night, he still doesn't apologize for a victory his team didn't deserve.
      Makes me agree that Duke coach David Cutcliffe's suggestion (demand?) that college football set up some sort of appeals committee or central command, or that conferences have a system to settle these type disputes, has a lot of merit.
      The deserving team ought to win. And that team certainly was Duke against Miami last Saturday. But the human element -- poor judgment by officials -- prevailed.
      Here is what really galls me. Now there is a tee shirt diagramming the play and boasting of the victory available for the Miami people.
      Great. Take those shirts, and donate them to needy kids.
      And give one to each of the game officials -- and especially the replay official. They can wear them as they watch games on television the next two weekends.
      Or they can put them over their heads, and they'll see as well as they did on that final play last Saturday.


  1. From Patrick Booras: Duke won the game ... see photo above. "Replay" should have made the right call ... and ended the game with a Duke victory when the Miami player's knee was seen on the replay as down.

  2. From Kip Coons: Unfortunately for Duke, there's no mechanism at present to reverse or void the result. And it doesn't help that the official Miami response has been, "Well, the refs made a bad call on pass interference earlier, so it evens out."

  3. From Teddy Allen: It sure seems the game should be awarded to Duke but …
    What about missed holds in the first quarter, or a clip on a kick return that’s not called, etc. Are all of those reviewable after the game? THEN, how could the game be recreated?
    I would not suspend but would instead have to fire the officials. Forever. That would keep guys from messing up so bad. Because from all angles, the guy’s knee was on the ground. How they missed it? Got to involve money…Got to.
    Just wondering. Bottom line: How can you review only final-play calls when the same play in the first quarter would not be up for discussion?

  4. From Dale Brown: Deductive reasoning should be obvious and you are 100 percent correct.

  5. From Pesky Hill: Amen! I feel really bad for Coach Cut and the Duke players. They were robbed of a great come-from-behind victory.

  6. From Marty Mule': You forgot one telling example -- the "fifth-down'' Tulane-Miami game of 1972. Miami won on an extra down, even shown on the play-by-play sheet at the Orange Bowl. Miami refused to give that win back, too.

  7. From Tommy Henry: To quote the late, great Coach Bear Bryant after the officials missed a similar call on a hook and lateral play which resulted in the winning TD on the final play against his team one season (no replay review in those days but replay on sports TV shows clearly showed the player's knees [both] down on the ground before tossing the ball to a teammate who went on into the end zone), "Officials are paid to call the game."
    Unfortunately, what goes on during the game must stay with the game -- period. They would be packing a bag that they can't unpack if they negated that TD and awarded the game to Duke, and I just don't believe college football is ready for that.

  8. From Jimmy Russell: I saw this travesty live. I could not believe it and then the Interim coach for Miami got on TV and talked about a teachable moment for his “young people” and how they did not quit. He actually made a fool of himself in my opinion. I truly believe the officials did not have the courage to make the correct decision. I really think with the doubts they just let it go to Miami. One thing for sure: The Miami player was down before he lateraled the ball. Plus all the other “misses.”

  9. From Ray McNulty: This is a rare situation where setting a precedent is justified. The ACC should do what everyone -- everyone with even a shred of integrity and honor, anyway -- knows is right and overturn what was a fraudulent outcome.

  10. From Ross Montelbano: Wow, you just THINK the committee that votes on the playoffs is controversial. You go down this path and it will never end. Duke got screwed, the [Detroit] Tigers pitcher lost a perfect game and you are correct, the [St. Louis] Cardinals were robbed. But I'm glad that the 2000 election didn't go to the Supreme Court. Sometimes things just happen.