Late Monday morning, the Pac-12 Conference announced a reprimand and sanctions for the officials who worked (at least until the last 18 seconds) the Wisconsin-Arizona State game Saturday night. That’s a crew headed by referee Jack Folliard.
The action certifies what we all could have sensed by looking live at the finish, and at replays:
Wisconsin got jobbed.
Not only does the finish taint the ASU victory, it dulls what had been a nice day for the Pac-12, which got a convincing victory from UCLA at Nebraska and Washington’s win against Illinois.
Safe to say, the night had a good chance of not ending with an ASU victory over the Badgers if it had been officiated correctly.
With 18 seconds left, Wisconsin had moved to the ASU 13 with a right-sideline pass. It had no timeouts left. I continue to contend that it should have merely waved the field-goal team on then and taken its chances with a 30-yard attempt from the right hash, not risking strange stuff that has been known to happen by taking liberties with the final seconds. But still . . .
On the next play, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave moved to center the ball for his kicker, assuming he’d get another snap to spike the ball. Stave appeared to take a knee (though that wasn’t easily determined), then place the ball down. Whistles can be heard at about the 15-second mark, and shortly after that, ASU linebacker Anthony Jones falls on the ball and lies on it while seconds tick away. Officials make only a wan effort to manage the situation while Badger players become more frantic. And the clock runs out.
Here’s a passage from Rule 3, Section 4, Article 2B in the NCAA rules: “Illegal delay also includes action clearly designed to delay the officials from making the ball ready for play.”
Article 3 of that section also stipulates, “The referee shall order the game clock or play clock started or stopped whenever either team conserves or consumes playing time by tactics obviously unfair.”
There’s a five-yard penalty for delay of game, so not only should the Badgers have gotten to snap the ball, they would have been five yards closer for the field goal.
So it will be interesting going forward to see how this might play out, say, in BCS standings. Will the real, live voters give the Badgers a potential break, saying they had a great chance of winning if not for the mismanagement by officials?
Wisconsin has a right to be riled about the whole thing. Arizona State should feel there was taint involved. And clearly, it’s another officiating black mark for a league that has been trying to erase such blemishes. I suspect Folliard wishes he could have the whole 18 seconds back to make it right. But you can’t simply abdicate duty and swallow the whistle when it matters.