College Football’s First Controversial Call of 2008 May Have Cost Washington a Huge Upset

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Taking University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker out of a college football game is like taking Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James out of the National Basketball Association, or taking Tom Brady out of the National Football League, but that is what effectively happened last Saturday (9-6-08) in Seattle.

A controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jake Locker was a prime topic of conversation over the weekend by fans, coaches, play-by-play announcers, sports commentators and officials in 49 of 50 states. A survey revealed that the only state that agreed with the call was Utah.

That was because it was the No. 15-ranked Brigham Young University Cougars who benefited from the call, barely getting out of Husky Stadium with a 28-27 win. Utah is home to BYU.

Pacific-10 Conference referee Larry Farina leveled the 15-yard penalty on Locker for tossing the football into the air after scoring a touchdown with 2 seconds remaining in the game. A successful Washington extra point attempt would have tied the game at 28 all.

The penalty made the Dawg’s extra point attempt a 35-yard effort rather than a 20-yard attempt. More important, it rattled a team of young, inexperienced players, allowing the attempt to be blocked as time expired, ending what could easily have been an overtime game.

We will never know if the extra point attempt would have been made from 20 yards out because the referee effectively took the game out of the hands of the players and coaches in favor of interpreting the rule book by the letter of the law.

Obviously embarrassed by the call upon reflection, and by the fan and player reaction after the game, referee Larry Farina issued this statement in defense of his call:

“It is a celebration rule that we are required to call. It was not a judgment call,” said Farina to the media representatives.

David Perry, national coordinator for college football officiating, thought differently. While saying the penalty was correct (according to the rules), Perry added that ALL calls are judgment calls. Amen, David, amen.

Jake Locker was clearly not taunting any BYU player. He was not looking at any BYU player, throwing the football at any BYU player, speaking to any BYU player, or gesturing to any BYU player. He was simply excited about scoring a touchdown on the last possible play of the game to create an opportunity to tie the game and settle the outcome in overtime.

Even the national coordinator for college football officiating conceded that the penalty could not have been called if judgment was exercised, saying “I think it’s safe to say on emotional moments officials might become a little more lenient.”

Of course, Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall totally agreed with and defended the call. Why not? It was in his best interest to do so. Even Washington coach Ty Willingham initially agreed with the call, taking the side of the referee. On Monday, Willingham, perhaps the nicest, most politically correct, polite coach in college football, changed his mind.

“I think we all know that was not the right call,” Willingham said. “The proper judgment was not used. That was not the act of a young man taunting. That was not an unsportsmanlike act at all. It should have been viewed in its totality and not just isolated as the letter of the law.”

Thank you, Ty, for going to bat for your most important player, one of the most exciting and talented players in college football today. Thank you for going to bat for your team, for the University of Washington, and for fans everywhere who were reacting to the unjustified call. UFABET

It is the officials and head referee that set the standard for sportsmanship in any game, and in this case, Larry Farina could have made a better call.

In Husky nation, there is no rest for the weary. Washington, now 0-2 after facing No. 18-ranked Oregon and No. 15-ranked Brigham Young to open the season, will host No. 3-ranked Oklahoma next. Rather than adding insult to injury by sharing with you how much trouble Washington will have beating Oklahoma, this is 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, have gone undefeated 14 times, have an NCAA-record 30 (yes, 30) 10-win seasons, and have set the NCAA big-school record with a 47-game winning streak between 1953 and 1957.

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