To err is human and to forgive is divine.
But to reject correction is stupid.
I’m all for the human element in sports, where receivers drop passes, infielders boot grounders and point guards blow lay-ups. Those mistakes happen and they’re part of the game. Nothing can or should be done about that.
However, not all blunders are created equal. If the coach is guilty of poor clock management or the center hikes the ball over the punter’s head, that’s one thing. They’re actors with a stake in the competition, actively engaged in trying to win.
Conversely, officials are supposed to be neutral participants. They should follow doctors’ lead and operate under a Hippocratic Oath of sorts: “First, do no harm.” To the best of their ability, referees and umpires should ensure that their gaffes have little-to-no bearing on a game’s outcomes.
There was a point when we simply accepted the fact that officials’ miscues can have a major effect, arguably creating the difference between a win and a loss. But that was before the use of instant replay slowly grew in acceptance. Thankfully, the powers-that-be realized the foolishness in allowing certain bad calls to stand when there’s clear evidence of a slipup.
Replay has its limits and limitations, rightfully so. Games would last twice as long if everything was subject to review. And we don’t change results after the fact; the final score stands when the game ends, no matter what we see afterward in endless loops.
Not flipping wins to losses and vice versa is understandable for the most part. Despite the way late-game heroics are lauded and applauded, we know there’s actually no single “decisive play.” Every preceding play had a role. Unless we’re willing to review and perhaps overturn each prior call, reversing a decision based on end-of-game officiating stretches logic.
But what about an error that stretches the game after the clock hits 0:00?
If officials goof in interpreting the rules on a game-ending penalty, subsequently allowing an untimed down that results in a miraculous touchdown on a Hail Mary-plus-lateral, should the losing team be forced to keep the L after the flub is revealed?
No, it shouldn’t.
But that’s just my opinion. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, it doesn’t mean a thing.
The Cowboys were victimized twice on Saturday, first by the officials and then by Central Michigan, which pulled off one of the most improbable last-second victories you’ll ever see. The Chippewas escaped Stillwater with a shocking, 30-27 upset, but the play never should’ve happened.
The game should’ve ended with the then-No.22 OSU intentional-grounding penalty with no time remaining.
Instead, CMU’s offense was allowed one last snap from midfield. Quarterback Cooper Rush lofted a desperation heave that was caught by Jesse Kroll. As Kroll was being tackled at the 9, he made a desperation lateral to Corey Willis, who cut across field and leaned into the end with a defender draped around his neck.
It was fantastic. It was illegitimate.
“The Mid-American Conference officiating crew made an error on the final play of regulation,” Bill Carollo, the coordinator of football officials for the Collegiate Officiating Consortium, said in a statement. “The crew made a misapplication of the rule and should not have extended the contest with one final play.
“Despite the error, this will not change the outcome of the contest.”
Why not? If there ever was a time to alter a game’s outcome, this is it.
Unlike the Duke Blue Devils, who lost against the Miami Hurricanes last season on an eight-lateral, 49-second kickoff return that featured three blown calls, the Cowboys were ahead when time expired. There’s a huge difference between officials missing judgement calls as the game’s final play unfolds, versus officials butchering the rulebook and allowing one more play after the game ends.
Making the loss even harder to swallow for OSU, Big 12 officials in the replay booth could’ve informed the officiating crew that the game should’ve ended on the penalty. The Cowboys would still be ranked and undefeated, and the conference would have better odds of putting a team in the national playoff.
I have to side with Cowboys athletic director Mike Holder on this one.
“In my mind, it is incomprehensible that a mistake made after time has expired cannot be corrected,” he told reporters. “The final score shows that Oklahoma State lost the game but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.”
The MAC officiating crew and the Big 12’s two-man replay crew have been suspended for two games, with the latter duo banned from working a bowl game.
Those are punitive measures. Oklahoma State deserves a corrective measure.
Granted, there’s a slippery slope if game outcomes are subject to be reversed.
But our footing is common-sense firm if the game in question ends on a play that unquestionably shouldn’t happen.