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Pressbox: Football Has A Referee Problem

It used to be that blaming the result of a game on the referees was a laughable offense. But now, in the age of instant replays galore, the outcome of games are starting have legitimate protests from coaches, players, and fans alike. Games are being changed by poor refereeing, and it needs to be addressed for the sake of the game.

The Problem

Let’s go back to a college football game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Duke Blue Devils on October 31st, 2015. After it appeared that Duke had sealed the game, a miraculous set of laterals gave Miami the victory in the final play. However, despite a nine minute review of the play, no penalties were assessed. The referees deemed the play legal and that there was nothing Duke, or the referees, could do. Miami won the game 30-27 in what was one of the crazier games of the season.

The following day, the game’s referees involved were suspended two games for missing four calls on the play. Not one, not two, not three, but four! This could have been easily prevented if it weren’t for the rules regarding video evidence and it overturning rulings.

Via News Observer. One of the four missed calls in Miami’s game winning kick return to defeat Duke.

Now, you may think this problem is outdated. The NCAA has had a year to reassess and make a change. Well you are damn wrong.

Central Michigan versus Oklahoma State, Saturday, September 10th, 2016. The Chippewas of CMU were down 27-24 with the clock dwindling down. OSU had the ball, and on fourth down threw a pass that was deemed intentional grounding. Suddenly, the Chippewas had gone from a tough loss to the 22nd ranked team in the nation to a chance at victory. They were given an untimed down and, with the clock showing zeros, did what all good (and bad) teams do with no time left. They bombed it.

And it worked. CMU downed OSU 30-27. Following the game, head referee Tim O’Dey admitted that it was an error on the part of the crews, and CMU should not have been awarded a down.

That referee crew was suspended two games, but the damage was done. The game’s result could not be adjusted, and OSU lost its ranking.


Enough is enough.

I get that referees can’t see everything. I really do. And I also believe that they have a very tough job. But video replays are supposed to correct their mistakes, not support them. The NCAA has set out strict rules that hinder the ability of video replays. Why can’t a video replay be used to call a penalty on a team? The only argument against it is “It disrupts the momentum of the game”. If a team doesn’t deserve that momentum why should they have it?

This isn’t just a problem with the NCAA.

During week one of the NFL season, the NFL came out and admitted sixteen missed calls that went against the Jacksonville Jaguars in their game against the Green Bay Packers. Sixteen! You’re telling me video replay wouldn’t be able to help that?

Another major referee error happened during the Cleveland Browns’ game against the Washington Redskins this past weekend. You may have heard of it – The Phantom Fumble.

Down 24-20, the Browns were driving and looking to gain momentum towards achieving their first win of the season. However, that momentum was dramatically halted when Duke Johnson appeared to have lost the ball. Although he did fumble the football, he came out of the pile holding the pigskin in his hands, waving it in the air as countless Redskins attempted to wrestle it from the pile. He actually stood up with the ball in his hand showing the ref. He kept saying “It’s right here. Hey, I’ve got it right here.” That didn’t matter, as the refs signaled that the Redskins had recovered the ball, to the confusion of all involved.

Now let’s touch on the other football. As a passionate soccer fan I’ve seen countless reports of match fixing. After all the matches are done I see “Wrongly disallowed goal” and replays of obvious fouls/no fouls. Why is it taking this long to implement video replay?

The Solution

Look, I get people are for letting the games play naturally. But a referee is supposed to keep the games fair and make sure everybody is following the rules. When there are more and more examples of referees missing calls and costing games for teams, something has to be done.

The simple answer is allowing more opportunities for video replay.

The logistics of it would have to be sorted out within each sport, but as technology grows we have the ability to see things we’ve never been able to see. Technology can help the world of sports in nearly every aspect. It’s time we allow it to enter the world of sports.

The NFL, NCAA, and all other major leagues have the resources to make this problem go away. It feels silly to even be calling for reformation, as it just seems so damn obvious by now that the leagues would take steps to adjust for their previous wrongdoings.

I don’t want to log on to Twitter or Reddit and see everybody talking about the missed calls in key games. These missed calls sometimes cost teams their seasons. That’s where we should draw the line.

Referees are people, and people make mistakes. Referees are also employees, and employees make mistakes. It is time for the NFL to take the necessary precautions to assist these workers in as many ways as possible for their sake and the sake of the game.


Noah Ziegler View All

I write about the beautiful game. From the smallest islands to the biggest teams, it all will be covered.

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