Thursday, December 27, 2007

Penn Wagers Does it Again

Do the same replay officials work with a particular crew of referees? I took issue here with Penn Wagers and his crew's interpretation of the rules that enabled Bama to squeak out a win in Oxford, and possibly cost Orgeron his job. Again, a penalty flag falls from the replay booth, thrown by this same crew, this time in the Holiday Bowl, resulting in a 50 yard penalty, a change of possession, and a total change of momentum. The "Longhorn Steve Bartman" interference/noninterference is yet another egregious miscarriage of football justice by this horrendous SEC crew.

The replay showed that there was an referee right on that sideline very near the "toucher" with an unimpeded view of the play as it happened. He didn't blow the play dead nor did he throw a flag when the Texas staffmember reached for the ball. That means the call on the field was "no interference." Therefore, video evidence had to be indisputable that he touched the ball. I looked at it for 20 minutes on super slo-mo in hi-def, and I really don't think he touched it. Herbstreit and Musberger, idiots as they may be, disputed whether it was touched during the whole review. If there was dispute, then, by very definition, it's disputable.

But okay, whatever. Give Wagers his (latest) moment in the spotlight to deliver the shocking reversal. Even still, he doesn't have to make it a 50 yard penalty (50 because the Longhorn player who eventually recovered the lateral was tackled at the ASU 43; after the microscopy from the booth, the ball was spotted at the 7). The language from Rule 9-1 is as follows:

Illegal Interference
ARTICLE 4. a. No substitute, coach, authorized attendant or any person subject to the rules, other than a player or official, may interfere in any way with the ball or a player while the ball is in play.
PENALTY—15 yards from the basic spot. The referee may enforce any penalty he considers equitable, including awarding a score.

It was obvious the Texas dude thought the play was already dead and he wasn't trying to interfere. Also, I really don't think he touched the ball. The equitable thing to do would be to declare the ball dead at that spot, which would leave the ball in ASU's possession, but it would be 4th and forever. Nevertheless, Penn Wagers thinks it's equitable to enforce a 50 yard penalty. Wow.

To me the right call was actually never mentioned on TV or by the refs. It looked to me that the staffmember never touched it, but a Texas player trying to save it from going out of bounds immediately after the "interference" was touching the ball at the same time his hand hit the chalk of the boundary. Should have been blown dead, ASU ball at that spot.

If Penn Wagers loves the esoteric nuances of the rules so much, how come he never pulls out that "whatever is equitable" clause?


LD said...

Did you ever get a firm understanding of the concept that the replay booth could "call a penalty" which hadn't been flagged on the field?

I only saw an edited clip of this play, but it looked to me that the "illegal participation" penalty wasn't called on the field. What was the flag thrown at the point of Carpenter losing the ball (I saw a flag fly in after the ball is loose but far before Jessie reached for the ball)? Was it grounding or holding (or anything against ASU)? If so, wouldn't the "penalties" (if the illegal participation penalty stood) offset?

Regardless, I don't understand how the coverage of this play (I've read 2 stories on it and seen a Sportscenter bit on it) focuses on Jessie's touching, rather than what seems to me to be quite clear errors on behalf of the officials.

And further, the bigger question to me is this: how could anyone at the SEC office have watched the performance of this crew in the (a) Alabama-Ole Miss game, (b) Georgia-Florida game, and (c) Georgia-Auburn game and actually thought that this crew deserved a bowl appearance? There isn't a worse crew in the SEC, and I'm certain all the SEC crews didn't get chosen to officiate bowl games. The beady-eyed guy is better, and the crew that did the Georgia-Georgia Tech game was the best crew I'd seen all year (there were about 10 tough plays to call, and they got them all right - only screwing up a relatively easy call (the PI near the end zone)).

Anonymous said...


The penalty flag on the play was waved off, and had no bearing on the subsequent play.

I was watching at a bar so I am not real clear on what was said, but if I am not mistaken the official threw it for intentional grounding, and it was waved off when it was discovered that the ball actually went backward instead of forward.

I do not know why this would not have been obvious at the time, but with this crew you almost expect these sorts of debacles.

The Wrangler said...

My interpretation is a little different and is quite probably wrong. But, I think the Illegal Interference penalty didn't necessarily have to turn on whether CMB's stepson actually touched the ball or not. (I agree that he did not appear to touch it.)

Nobody other than a player or official "may interfere in any way with the ball or a player while the ball is in play." Consider a coach on the field as the opposing team's player attempts to run down the sideline - the player cuts back and gets tackled, but there was never any contact with the coach. The referee would most likely be justified in awarding a score.

I think the same reasoning applies here. This guy on the field feigns picking up the football because he incorrectly thinks the play is dead. If I'm a player in a loud stadium and I see that, the thought that the play is dead might enter my mind as well. And the team whose coach it was should be penalized. I don't think any ASU players were anywhere near getting to the ball, but I still think it should be a penalty for the guy even to make it look like he's picking up a live ball.

Therefore, my version of what would be equitable would be 15 yards forward from the near-touch spot, because it should still be a penalty. I may go as far as to say it should be First and 10 ASU at the spot 15 yards forward of the near-touching - I would suggest that coaches being on the field around a live ball is unsportsmanlike.

However, none of this goes to the issue of whether the replay booth should be able to do any of this. I'm just saying what I think a good refereeing crew should have done.

Anonymous said...

I still haven't found anything definitive in the rules as to whether a penalty can be called from above. The Bama-Ole Miss call appears authorized by a clause in the SEC replay rules that includes "Touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver" as reviewable. I assume the SEC rules were in effect in the Holiday Bowl, too. There is not a clause that fits this latest situation exactly, but there are many penalties in the "unsportsmanlike" genre that are expressly NOT REVIEWABLE, such as "fighting participants," "taunting/excessive celebrations," and "personal fouls."

With regard to LD's other question, Wagers himself threw the idiotic grounding flag that got waved off.

As for the Wrangler's take, in the first post-review explanation (after a full five minutes under the headset) Wagers said that Jessie did actually touch the ball and he specifically called it unsportsmanlike, but that doesn't make it an automatic first down.

Wagers' exact words:

"The ruling on the field has been reversed. While the ball was loose during a backward pass, a member of the coaching staff of Texas touched the ball. By rule this is an unsportsmanlike act. Therefore, since the ball was loose on a backward pass, we're going to go to the previous spot, which was the 14 yard line. It's gonna be half the distance to the goal."

Kudos to the camera work during this explanation. The shot was from ground level, showing the back of Wagers' head, with Brown glaring through him at the camera. The reaction in real time was priceless.

After a second booth review (this time for 3 minutes), he stated it would be 1st down, ASU.

Then Brown goes even more ballistic, there's another on-field discussion among the refs, and Wagers reverses his call as to what down it would be, now announcing it to be 4th, which didn't matter because the Sun Devils scored on the ensuing play.

I still have it DVR'd so we can watch it remotely via the blessed Slingbox when we are at the belated Douchebag Family Christmas celebration this weekend.

Kanu said...

"The Ref-a-ree's a wan-ker" soccer chant was made specifically for Penn Wagers- it is a shame he will never hear tens of thousands chanting it in unison at him...