I'd been writing a post analyzing the officiating and penalties from this game, but in the midst of doing so, Walt Anderson, Director of Officials for the Big 12 addressed the media about the "review" of the Ineligible Receiver Downfield penalty on Saturday during the closing moments of the first half of the West Virginia game on Saturday. I may get back to that eventually, but now there's this.
In case you missed it, FOX's in-studio rules expert Mike Pereira posted this commentary on the game's officiating, in which he breaks down the two obviously incorrect situations called by the officials: the ineligible man downfield that was "reviewed" and subsequently reversed and the penalty on the field goal at the end of the half. If you haven't, read it before going further, because Mr. Anderson's comments were apparently in direct response to the column. Here's what Pereira said:
West Virginia had the ball, third-and-15 at its own 39-yard line with 34 seconds left before halftime. West Virginia led 21-20.
West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett completed a 24-yard pass to Andrew Buie to the Baylor 37-yard line. However, the Mountaineers were penalized for an ineligible receiver downfield, because the officials ruled that Buie caught the pass beyond the line of scrimmage. But the replay official buzzed down and reviewed the play and they ended up picking up the flag.
The case book is clear on ineligibles down field: You can't review them. But what the replay official ended up reviewing was whether or not the pass was caught beyond or behind the line of scrimmage. You can review touching of the pass, but you can't review where the pass was touched. But the replay official ruled Buie did catch the pass behind the line. That's a huge reversal that led to a West Virginia field goal at the end of the first half.
Now comes the response from Walt Anderson, as paraphrased by ESPN's Jake Trotter:
Basically, Anderson said replay official "correctly" stepped in at end of first half of WVU-Baylor to correct an error made on field.— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 20, 2014
Anderson said that can happen when error is "egregious."— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 20, 2014
This is the first time I've ever heard of a replay official being able to "step in" to correct an error made on the field. Without having taken the time to perform a detailed review of the NCAA Rulebook and Reviewbook, I'd venture a guess that this isn't explicitly delineated anywhere. Instead of either not commenting or admitting that they've made a mistake, the Big 12 officiating department opened up a new can of worms by basically saying that if a decision is "egregious," the review official can step in to correct the call. What qualifies as "egregious?" Was the blatant facemask that was missed on the Shock Linwood fumble in the TCU game not egregious? Or any other missed facemask call, for that matter? What about some of the pass interference calls or non-calls that we've seen over the past few weeks? Were any of those not "egregious?" I said it on Twitter, and I'll say it here: This stinks to high heaven. Big 12 officials managed to throw gasoline on what was at best a smoldering, but dying, flicker. Prashanth said it well:
Congratulations, Big 12 Refs, you somehow, inexplicably figured out how to make Saturday's performance worse. I'm almost impressed.— Pras Francis (@PrasFrancis) October 20, 2014
Controversy aside, I still do not believe that the officiating in Saturday's game was the reason the Bears lost. That point cannot be understated enough. West Virginia executed a game plan brilliantly, both on offense and on defense.
We'll keep you updated on this story as it develops. It will be interesting to see if Pereira follows up on the issue.