Pac-10 suspends officials for errors that cost Oklahoma

Updated: September 19, 2006, 8:28 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NORMAN, Okla. -- 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 were made in calls near the end of the contest.

Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said Monday that a review by conference officials of video of the game revealed that both the instant replay officials and the game officials assigned by the conference made errors in the final minute and 12 seconds of the game.

Forde-Yard Dash
Pat Forde
The Dash understands why Sooner Nation lost its collective mind after the officiating fiasco at the end of the Oregon game, which was won by the Ducks, 34-33. The non-call on the onside kick stunk. The inept review of the call was worse. The Pac-10's one-game suspension of the offending officials was completely justified.

But the Oklahoma reaction has become an overreaction. In fact, it has transitioned from righteous indignation to outright insanity.

• For more of Pat Forde's analysis, click here.

Oklahoma lost the game 34-33 after Oregon scored two touchdowns near the end of the game.

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.

Officials on the field gave the ball to Oregon, and replay officials did not overturn that decision.

During a subsequent play, pass interference was called on Oklahoma, setting up the winning score. The Sooners argued that the ball had been tipped at the line of scrimmage, thereby nullifying the pass interference call.

Replay officials did not see indisputable evidence to overturn the penalty.

"The fact that the errors on the onside kick altered the outcome of the game is most unfortunate and unsettling," Hansen said in a statement. "We had a solid veteran crew assigned, and the instant replay official had a fine career as a referee in the Pac-10. We believe in the ability and integrity of each individual involved. It should be noted that not all of the seven officials were directly involved in the play in question, but the entire crew bears responsibility for every play. Game officials and replay officials have positions of great responsibility and must be accountable for their actions.

"Errors 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, as did Oregon, 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.

Dan Patrick Show:
Mel Kiper
Mel Kiper
Mel Kiper offers his thoughts on the Pac-10's handling of the officiating problems during Oregon's win over Oklahoma Sep. 16.

• To listen to all of Kiper's comments, click here Insider

• Curry on Mike & Mike Insider 

"At least they have reacted to it and tried. Truly there can be no amends to it and it can't be corrected," Stoops said.

The loss was Oklahoma's first of the season and immediately lessens the Sooners' chances of making it to a third BCS title game in four years.

"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. So I find it still absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable."

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, 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 replay officials and the way in which they interact with game officials 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.

Hansen said that the officials will be closely monitored in the future, but he acknowledged that they don't have an easy job.

"Officiating on the field is much more difficult than it appears from the stands, and certainly when watching repeated replays," Hansen said. "Plays occur at a high rate of speed. Decisions on the field must be made instantaneously. The training and experience of officials at this level enable them to work at a high degree of accuracy. Unfortunately, at the critical moment of this game errors were made."

Hansen said that officials are limited to the available television shots of the action, but "on the kickoff play ample views were available."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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