(Written by kencraw)
Now that I’ve been able to see video of all of the controversial plays at the Big Game, including the ones that occurred after I had left the game, it’s time for a post on the officiating…
One of the benefits of being the Cal Bears longest standing blogger is that I have a plethora of documented evidence of how I’ve reacted to various events over the years. So I can say with confidence and have evidence to back it up, that I’m fairly charitable to the refs, knowing how difficult a job it is. You won’t find many posts in my 10 seasons of Cal of blogging (My first post was 8/19/2005, albeit two years before I separated my personal/Catholic blog from my Cal blog) where I berate the refs.
Yes, there has been the occasional call that I disagree with, or even the game where I thought they did a worse than usual job, but overall I’ve held my tongue when I’ve disliked their calls and have supported them.
But this year is different. They have been HORRIBLE!
I’ve never had a SINGLE game before where I have booed and yelled at them like I have at them at MULTIPLE games this year. There have been so many really, really, really bad calls, it’s just not excusable.
And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not just a Cal thing. They’ve been horrible in general. While it sure feels like Cal is getting the worst end of it, I’ve seen plenty of pretty ridiculous calls against other teams. USC got a couple of pretty bad ones when Cal played them two weeks ago.
But the Big Game takes the cake and it was ALL one-sided. I’ll admit that when watching the slow motion replay of the play that got Lowe ejected, it was worse than it appeared from the stands. Definitely a penalty. And maybe by the strict interpretation of the rules, it should have been an ejection (in which case my objection transfers from the refs to the rule makers… there’s nothing about that play that deserves an ejection). But the other plays that I saw live, that had me coming unglued, were just as bad if not worse than they appeared live and at speed.
Here are the categories where I find the officiating horrible:
- It’s ridiculous the penalties Cal has been getting for late hits out of bounds. Defenses can not assume that players are going to run out of bounds. They HAVE to play as if the player will try to stay in bounds and get more yards. Thus a defensive player shouldn’t have to pull up/slow down until the offensive player has ACTUALLY stepped out of bounds. (Of course, once that moment has occurred, they need to do everything in their power to minimize/avoid contact.) And that’s not been what’s happening. The refs have been calling it like the defense should assume they’re going out of bounds. And BTW, it should NOT matter if the player is the QB. Once they’re out of the pocket and running with the ball, I don’t care if it’s Mariota, Hogan or concrete for shoes Nate Longshore, if they don’t want to risk getting hit, get out of bounds sooner or slide feet first.
- The inconsistency of what the criteria are for instant replay to overturn a call has been baffling. In fairness to the Big Game replay ref, he was willing to overturn everything on the slimmest of evidence. He gave Stanford a TD that was called down on pretty marginal evidence. And he took THREE touchdowns away from Cal on not only marginal evidence, at least two of them there was clear evidence to the support the ruling on the field. I’m OK with hearing a lot of “the play stands as called” after reviews. Really I am. But it better be CONSISTENT! I don’t want to see some calls overturned on marginal evidence and others let stand because there’s not enough evidence for their hobbled eyes.
- Also an inconsistency issues, the “completed catch” stuff has been atrocious. Part of this I blame on the rules and interpretation committees. They keep mucking with it and adding interpretations on top of interpretations to the degree it is a muddled mess of confusion. And for whatever reason, there’s been a ton of it in Cal games. Fumbles called incomplete. Incompletions called fumbles. Interceptions that don’t seem to have completed the catch that stand. Touchdowns taken back. It’s been all over the map and VERY inconsistent. And for some reason, Cal has been on the losing end of all but a couple of them.
- Holding penalties. This has gotten less attention, but I think there has been REAL inconsistency in calling holding. What appears to be happening is the refs are trying to keep the flag in their pocket when the holds don’t affect the outcome of the play. They also appear to be giving warnings on marginal calls. However, the result of those two things combined have been a scenario where holds away from the play are being called at times (because they’ve been warned) and holds that affect the play are not (because the player in question has been pretty clean up to that point). It’s just creating a big mess. Here’s a radical idea: A hold is a hold is a hold. I don’t care where it happens or who did it or whether there have been warnings. Call it consistently every play. Yes, at first you’ll get more flags. But over time, the players will adjust and play the game cleaning knowing exactly what will and will not be called. Said another way, consistency, even if it is a strict consistency, will eventually result in fewer penalties being called.
- Protecting the QB seems like a great thing to do. But I get the strong feeling that how protected they are is directly related to how prominent a QB they are (and to a lesser degree upper class men). Goff hasn’t been getting much in the way of protection, whereas Mariota and Hundley are getting quite a bit of protection, despite the fact that they’re running QB’s. To a lesser degree I think this same thing is happening with receivers.
- The interruption of the flow of the game has been bad. They’ve been conferencing and talking to coaches and going back and forth WAY too much. It would be one thing if these extra discussions were resulting it well called games, but obviously this is not the case. I harken back to a much better day in officiating when Dan Fouts was besides himself at the end of the 2007 Cal Oregon game as the refs were conferencing (“How can we have a review if the refs haven’t made a decision!?!” he said). But in that case, they talked for ~20 seconds and then made the right call. The review booth took an extraordinary amount of time to review the call, but again, they made the right call. So I guess my message is, I’m OK with taking time to make the right call, but if you’re making a bunch of horrible calls, at least keep the game moving.
Those are the big categorical problems that have been bugging me this year. It’s been a horrible year for officiating, worse than I’ve ever seen. And Larry Scott, it’s time to do something about it.