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#1 to Unranked

I'd be pissed too buddy.
For years I have had the mostly correct believe that the Big East had the best officials in the nation. This was not strictly because I am a “homer” or because I’m from the east, but rather because time and time again they have demonstrated so. The Big East has the fewest reversed calls after official reviews in football last year, traditionally “lets the kids play” in basketball (which I love), and called penalties only when they needed to be. Other conferences were not as good, especially in football. Case in point, the no call for too many men on the field in the Virginia football game in 2005 with their ACC crew. But this has changed.

There have been several incidents of terrible officiating this season, but none more evident than the “unfair catch” made by Connecticut last Friday against Louisville. Coincidence would have it that I actually attended this game (Please save the “But Brian, I thought you were a Syracuse fan?” crap because you know it is true. I had a friend with a ticket and a tailgate, and I like college football, OK?). At the time, because of where I sat in The Rent, I did not notice the hand wave, but I did notice every Louisville player on the field stop right before the catch. Because I’m a sharp guy with plenty of football and referee experience I gathered this meant he had waved for the fair catch. All of a sudden, he takes off down the UConn sideline. I am fairly certain that after calling for a fair catch you cannot do that. Stevie K was going nuts on the L’ville sideline and with good reason. How does a referee just ignore a hand wave on a kickoff?

The official explanation was that in the rules a fair catch is defined as when a player waves their hand back and forth. The rules state “A valid signal is a signal given by a player of Team B who has obviously signaled his intention by extending one hand only clearly above his head and waving that hand from side to side of his body more than once.” The UConn player only waved it back in one direction. Therefore, via the text of the rule, it was technically not called a fair catch. However, when the L’ville players stop and take it as a fair catch, and there was a hand wave, that should be a fair catch. I’ll break out a legal term and state that “based on the preponderance of the evidence” that should have been ruled a fair catch. So what happens now? Louisville, as Syracuse alumnus Sean McDonough calls the game, will only get a hearty sorry from the league, but the play was not reviewable. Donnie Webb at the Post-Standard disagrees. He stats in his article here, that the Big East did just that, and reviewed a judgment call in the South Florida – Rutgers game last week. Interesting.

The Big East Commissioner Mike Trangheses has acknowledged that it was the wrong call and that action will be taken. After this game I am sure the NCAA rules committee will take a look at the rule as well. This is a clear case of the letter of the rule versus the spirit of the rule. The rule was not intended on allowing a team to trick a team into freezing because they think the player is calling for a fair catch only to run it back 74 yards for a touchdown.
You can judge for yourself with the video below. I think this is probably one of the worst calls we will see in college football this season. As a former referee I hate when officials get calls wrong. As an official you have one job, to get the call right. Most of the time they do, but when they do not, it is terrible for the game as a whole. Nunes has a theory about officials in Connecticut, and frankly he probably is not that far off. I hope that the Big East gets things in shape for basketball season. Then again, with Jim Boeheim sending out memos, who can say?

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1 Responses to “#1 to Unranked”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    That's a fair catch. They missed it.  

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