The College Quickie: Judgment Calls

There are rules in football that are black and white – like grabbing a receiver to prevent him from catching a ball – and there are rules that officials should be able to use their best judgement. The ending of the Colorado and Hawaii game proved the latter. By rule, the clock only stops on first downs so officials can place the ball, then it starts immediately thereafter. I like this rule. A lot. What happened on Thursday between the two mentioned teams was unacceptable, and I don’t blame the officials or the two teams playing. I don’t blame the rules or even the rules committee.

It was clear to anyone who watched the end of the game live that the officials were doing their best to set the ball so Colorado could attempt a game-tying touchdown in the closing seconds of the game. It was also clear that a Hawaii player trying to get into position unintentionally hit the ball preventing the placement of the ball and Colorado’s final play.

“After a thorough review via the standard procedures of the Mountain West/CFO West infrastructure, it has been determined the MW officiating crew employed the appropriate mechanics on the final play of the Colorado at Hawaii game and were in no way deficient in the proper execution of their responsibilities,” the Mountain West said in a statement provided to ESPN. “There is also no evidence the Hawaii player intentionally interfered with the placement of the ball and thus no action by rule was warranted.”

Full stop.

This is where the common sense comes in. Keep reading, if you’re smart you know where I’m going with this.

The officials should be able to stop the clock properly to set the ball and immediately start the clock. No, we don’t need the help of replay and no neither team should be able to substitute. This is grey area and potentially highly unpopular.

Until this scenario plays out with your team on offense.

Or in December or January.

Imagine a scenario in the national championship game that’s similar to the one above. Imagine Ohio State is on offense and Alabama is on defense. Worse, imagine if a player does intentionally get in the way of the ball and by rule the officials can’t do anything about it?

The rule book is written in such a way that teams are supposed to be treated equally, but the book isn’t written to take all into account every scenario possible. In limited situations, officials should be given the ability to make judgments based on fairness and advantage/disadvantage. This grey area is exercised in almost every other football play.

Football officials are very good at determining if holding plays have an actual impact on the play because they’re allowed to exercise their judgement. They should be given the ability to exercise the same judgement in the above mentioned scenario as well.

Colorado and Hawaii aren’t nationally popular teams, but as I mentioned before, if this scenario had played out on national television, the reaction to the play would have been totally different.

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