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College Football’s First Controversial Call of 2008 May Have Cost Washington a Huge Upset
Taking University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker out of college football is like taking Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James out of the National Basketball Association or Tom Brady out of the National Football League, but it actually happened last Saturday. (9-6-08) in Seattle.
A controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Jake Locker was a major topic of conversation over the weekend among fans, coaches, announcers, sports commentators and officials in 49 of the 50 states. The survey found that the only state that agreed with the invitation was Utah.
That’s because it was the No. 15 Brigham Young University Cougars who benefited from the call, barely coming away with a 28-27 win from Husky Stadium. Utah is home to BYU.
Pacific-10 Conference referee Larry Farina called a 15-yard penalty on Locker for throwing the football in the air after the snap with 2 seconds left. Washington’s successful extra point attempt would have tied the game at 28.
The penalty made Doug’s extra point attempt a 35-yard attempt, not a 20-yard attempt. More importantly, it rattled a team of young and inexperienced players and allowed a timeout effort to end what could easily have been an overtime game.
We will never know if the extra free-kick from 20 yards would have been awarded as the referee effectively took the game out of the hands of the players and coaches to interpret the rule book according to the letter of the law.
Clearly embarrassed by the call for consideration and the reaction from the fans and players after the game, referee Larry Farina defended his call with the following statement:
Farina told the media: “It’s a rule of thumb that we have to call. It wasn’t a court order.”
David Perry, the national coordinator for college football officiating, thought otherwise. While saying the penalty was correct (according to the rules), Perry added that ALL calls are judgment calls. Amen, David, amen.
Jake Locker clearly wasn’t taunting any BYU players. He did not look at any BYU player, throw the football to any BYU player, talk to any BYU player or point at any BYU player. He was only excited to score on the last possible play of the game to create a chance to tie the game and decide the outcome in overtime.
Even the national coordinator of college football officiating admitted that if the ruling had been carried out, the penalty would not have been called, saying: “I think it’s fair to say that the officials have to be a little more lenient when it comes to emotional moments.”
Of course, Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall fully agreed with the call and defended it. Why not? It was for his benefit. Even Washington coach Ty Willingham initially agreed with the call and sided with the referee. On Monday, Willingham, perhaps the nicest, most politically correct and polite coach in college football, changed his mind.
“I think we all know it wasn’t the right call,” Willingham said. “The correct judgment was not used. This was not an act of taunting by a young man. It was not an act of unsportsmanlike conduct. It should have been looked at as a whole and not isolated as just the letter of the law.”
Thank you, Ty, for fighting for your most important player, one of the most exciting and talented players in college football today. Thank you for fighting for your team, for the University of Washington, and for the fans everywhere who responded to the call.
It’s the officials and the umpire that set the standard for sportsmanship in every game, and in this case, Larry Farina could have made a better call.
There is no rest for the weary in Husky Nation. Washington, now 0-2 after defeating No. 18 Oregon and No. 15 Brigham Young, will next host No. 3 Oklahoma to open the season. Rather than add insult to injury by sharing with you how hard Washington will beat Oklahoma, here’s all you need to know:
Oklahoma is 783-295-53 in its 114th season of football. The Sooners have won 7 Associated Press national championships, 41 conference championships, 24 bowl games, are undefeated 14 times, have an NCAA-record 30 (yes, 30) 10 wins and set the NCAA senior school record. 47 game winning streak between 1953 and 1957.
Oh! Good luck Washington and God speed. I try to remember you in my prayers because I know that it is right to pray for victory, as it depends on God, but it is better to act, it depends on you (Huskies). They’re learning at Oklahoma that the bigger, faster, and more talented the players are, the more Dust Bowl prayer will work.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
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