Tuesday, September 19

Asterisk U? Throwing out games in sports.

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma-Oregon game, one small snippet from an article about the Pac-10 suspending the offending officiating crew stuck out in my mind. OU president David Boren asked Big XII commissioner Kevin Weiberg to try to get the game removed from the books, a request which Weiberg refused.

Before proceeding, as a primer to just how bad that call was, I'd recommend some background reading. It's rare that I'll be linking you to other opinion articles, but here's one that you should really read - Monday Morning Quarterback by Matt Zemek.

You may also be aware that Oklahoma is next-in-line to receive the 2004 title should the NCAA decide to vacate USC's games in which Reggie Bush participated from October 2004 on. This, on the other hand, would be an example of acceptable throwing out of games. (that is, if USC is guilty of rules infractions) Not that too many people would, in their hearts, believe OU was the best team that season after a 55-19 beatdown in which Leinart moved the offense and Bush didn't even score. But rules are rules and the NCAA should enforce them, you know, on occasion.

What would happen if the NCAA removed the OU-UO game from the books? First, every Louisiana State fan in the country would say "and while you're at it, take out the Auburn game where we should have had pass interference called!" And then...?

It becomes a cloudy issue of opinion and perspective. Zemek laid out a solid reason why the onside kick call is worse than, say, a missed pass interference. But I could just as easily construct an argument about pass interference in or near the end zone as being a score-changing play, while the onside kick itself doesn't actually put points on the board -- the opposing defense still has the chance to negate the official's error. While it's highly likely, it's not guaranteed that Oklahoma would have won this game had they recovered the onsides. (surely some of you remember how Arkansas lost to eventual champ Tennessee back in 98) On the other hand, if a ref doesn't call pass interference during a certain Fiesta Bowl overtime on 4th down, Miami wins its second BCS title as a matter of fact. So in certain situations, the PI call can be just as game-altering, if not moreso. There's no limit to where it goes from there. USC had the "Bush Push" a season ago, which happened on the last play of the game. In their epic Rose Bowl game, Texas's first touchdown should have been ruled dead around the 10 yard line -- that was also a bad call, not a controversial call -- Young's knee quite clearly touched the ground. The Michigan-Nebraska Alamo Bowl had so many missed calls and prcedural errors, I don't even know where to begin... and those are just games from last season.

If we throw out OU-UO, how many other games have to be thrown out with it for the sake of consistency? What even defines consistency, in this case?

Mistakes by referees are, unfortunately, still a part of the game. Replay is going to help that, but clearly the replay system still needs to be improved upon itself. What's not "just a mistake" is having a professional, or otherwise ineligible, athlete play college ball. That's the only place the line can be drawn without leading us down a slippery slope, and a place where the line must be drawn for the sake of fairness. All other results must stand.