September 22, 2006
Austin, TX (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Oklahoma's hands team was already celebrating the victory.
They recovered Oregon's onside kick with 1:12 left on the clock while holding a 33-27 lead after the ball caromed off of an Oregon player before the 45-yard line and found its way into the hands of a Sooner, who was seen walking away from the pile with it.
Everyone on the Oklahoma sideline knew there was only one thing left to do: kneel on the football and head back to Norman with a win.
So, when the referee threw his right hand at the Oklahoma end zone, signaling an Oregon first down, coach Bob Stoops was stunned to say the least.
He was seen on the sidelines, yelling until his face matched his Oklahoma polo shirt and pleading with the officials to take another look. Look at his player holding the ball. Look around at the other referees to see if they saw the ball hit an Oregon player.
Look at the instant replay in the booth.
The PAC 10 officiating crew did just that. They delayed the game several minutes, while ABC replayed the kick over and over, with the broadcasters coming to the conclusion that Oregon had indeed touched the ball illegally. That call would give the ball, and essentially the game, back to Oklahoma.
But upon furthur review, the Ducks retained possession, much to the dissapointment of Stoops and the Sooners. An Oregon touchdown and a blocked Oklahoma field goal later, and the Ducks were the ones celebrating.
But the story doesn't end there. Instead of citing insufficient visual evidence, the replay official "confirmed" the kickoff play, saying he saw an Oklahoma player touch the ball first. The fact that an Oklahoma player recovered the ball wasn't reviewable.
But countless people saw the replays on ABC, and Monday the Pac-10 admitted that the replay official's call was flat out wrong.
Not questionable, but wrong.
"Errors clearly were made and not corrected, and for that we apologize to the University of Oklahoma, coach Bob Stoops and his players. The fact that the errors on the onside kick altered the outcome of the game is most unfortunate and unsettling," Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said. "Game officials and replay officials have positions of great responsibility and must be accountable for their actions."
The conference suspended the entire crew for one game, although the replay official requested and was granted a leave of absence, citing actions such as a death threat.
But a simple sorry wasn't good enough for Oklahoma. Not after a losing in such controversial fashion.
"Truly there can be no amends to [the call] and it can't be corrected." Stoops said. "We all make mistakes in the heat of the moment. Every coach in the country and every kid would love to replay it and say, 'Let me do that over." [The officials] have that opportunity, so how can it be excusable and acceptable? It's just not."
Stoops did not directly state whether he thought the one-game suspension for the officials was sufficient, although he did allude to the fact that the officials should be held accountable on some level.
"I get a 19-year-old kid who's out there in front of the whole country and out there in front of 60,000 people who makes a mistake and gives up a play at the end. He's got to talk to [the media] and explains [himself]. All parties involved should have to explain their actions to some degree you would think."
Stoops was upset about the loss, but Oklahoma president David L. Boren tried doing something about it.
Boren wrote a letter to Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg on Monday, asking Weiberg for five things. The fourth was taking Saturday's loss off the record books. Boren also asked Weiberg to help facilitate discussions about the review process in college football.
Weiberg wasn't as gung-ho about taking any action in response to the controversial loss.
"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," Weiberg said after receiving the letter. "Officiating decisions are part of the game just as are decisions of coaches and athletes, and determining what errors should result in overturning results would be chaotic."
Weiberg did say he would make sure Boren's issues about the replay process be placed on the appropriate conference and national agendas.
Boren also adressed the Pac-10's rule about using only its own officials for home non-conference games. In his letter's third request, Boren asked that the Big 12 get involved and "request that the Pac-10 change its rule to assure impartial officiating."
Weiberg seemed even less inclined to get involved with that request, citing Oklahoma's prior knowledge to the rule and Boren's ability to deal with the issue himself as a member of the Big 12 Board of Directors.
For those that were most directly affected by the controversial call, the key now is to move on and focus on the future.
"I have to deal with this because I am the head coach," Stoops said. "Our players understand we've got a lot in front of us."
And what lies ahead is nine chances to fill the hole left after having a win, like the football after they recovered it with 72 seconds left, taken out of thier hands.
(C) 2006 Daily Texan via CSTV U-WIRE