Botching enforcement of a rule is never good.
Botching enforcement of a rule on a game’s penultimate play — when it should have been a game’s final play — is worse.
Botching enforcement of a rule on a game’s penultimate play — when the subsequent and final play turns into a game-winning touchdown and changes the outcome — is a nightmare.
That’s the world inhabited by on-field Mid-American Conference officials and Big 12 replay officials after Saturday’s crazy, cluttered and clamorous endgame sequence in the Central Michigan-Oklahoma State tilt.
No one expected either the on-field MAC crew or the Big 12 replay-booth team to escape punishment. Sure enough, the hammer came down Sunday afternoon:
MAC officiating crew from CMU-Ok St gets a two-game suspension as does the two-person Big 12 replay crew.
— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) September 11, 2016
As documented here by Today’s U columnist Joey Johnston, the college football rulebook states that a loss-of-down penalty committed by the offense should not prolong a game by one final untimed down. MAC officials lost sight of this nuance and gave Central Michigan the extra untimed down, anyway. Everyone knows what happened when the Chippewas were given that one final slingshot of an opportunity.
Cooper Rush heaved the ball.
Jesse Kroll caught it and had the intelligence needed to lateral it before being tackled.
Corey Willis caught the lateral and made a diagonal run to the goal line, across the field, before any Oklahoma State defender could bring him down.
On an untimed down it should not have had — at least according to the letter of the law in the rulebook — Central Michigan plucked victory from the jaws of defeat. The enormity of the outcome, even though not reversed by administrators and decision makers, ensured that suspensions would follow.
The other noteworthy aspect of this development — unremarked upon by media outlets across the country — is that it follows last year’s incident in which the last play of a game was erroneously adjudicated by on-field officials and similarly mis-reviewed by the replay booth.
The play in question? The Miami-Duke kickoff, which Miami returned for a touchdown despite the fact that a Hurricane player had his knee on the ground in possession of the ball, before attempting a lateral.
As was the case then, officiating supervisors and conference administrators did not overturn the result. This episode in Central Michigan-Oklahoma State follows the same path. It will be worth noting if this becomes a point of discussion during and after the 2016 college football season.