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Published: Monday, 9/26/2011

Reversal most likely not probable

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

That was quite a concession by the Big East Conference late Saturday, not that it had any choice considering the circumstances.

To admit that one of its officiating crews is incapable of ruling whether an extra-point kick traveled over the crossbar and through the uprights, which is pretty basic, is one thing. To admit that a replay official, armed with time and technology and all the angles, is incapable of doing the same is, well, pretty much the definition of incompetence.

Presuming that nothing else would have changed, which is definitely a presumption considering the danger in attempting to rewrite history, the call cost the University of Toledo a victory in a game the Rockets eventually lost 33-30 to Syracuse in overtime.

UT staged a press conference Sunday at which athletic director Mike O’Brien said he asked the Mid-American Conference to appeal to the Big East that Syracuse’s win “be vacated and awarded” to Toledo.

Added coach Tim Beckman: “Admitting a wrong is one thing. Correcting it is another thing. When [instant replay] is brought in and they still get it wrong, that’s an injustice.”

This may sound a tad whiny on the part of O’Brien and Beckman, and I imagine they realize that, but the Rockets are a frustrated bunch.

Beckman said officiating woes have affected two of Toledo’s last five games — there was a controversial sideline ball placement that allowed Florida International a key first down in last December’s Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl; it too was upheld by a replay judge. UT fans, of course, might throw in a third game.

Three weeks ago, UT lost 27-22 at Ohio State in a game that saw the Rockets penalized 14 times for 102 yards against OSU’s two penalties for 13 yards. The game was officiated by a blended crew of MAC and Big 10 officials and, according to a source in UT’s athletic department, all members of that crew were subsequently issued letters of reprimand by the Big Ten/MAC supervisor of officials.

“To my knowledge, yes, there were letters of reprimand sent to the crew,” O’Brien responded when asked about it Sunday.

Asked why it had never been made public, O’Brien said: “That would have to be addressed by MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.”

Steinbrecher, who returned a call after arriving in Dallas for meetings, said, “I will not speak to that. What I will confirm is that our staff evaluates each and every play of each and every game and reviews any issues with the officiating crews.”

As to any thought of appealing for Syracuse to vacate its win, Steinbrecher said: “I just walked off a plane, so if Mike sent me something I haven’t seen it yet. But I’ll look at it and respond to him and take whatever action is appropriate. We’ll be supportive of our member institution.”

Toledo just finished a stretch of three nonconference games against Ohio State, Boise State, and Syracuse, and its frustration in having gone 0-3 is that two of them were eminently winnable and, perhaps, affected by officiating.

When asked about the OSU game, Beckman merely shrugged and suggested that was different than what happened against Syracuse or in last winter’s bowl game.

“We’re talking about instant replay,” he said. “Replay is there to make things right. The right call was not made.”

The Rockets are just as frustrated by a growing injury list that has seen five defensive starters sidelined — four remain questionable, at best, for next Saturday’s league opener on the road against a very good Temple team — and the leading rusher lost to a broken arm.

It is part of the risk of pitting a mid-major team against such a demanding schedule, probably a too-demanding schedule.

Beckman said, “Players come to UT because UT is special and part of that is the tradition of who you compete against.

“But those are three very good football teams, no question. And, yeah, we’re beat up.”

O’Brien was more direct.

“I do the scheduling, and you bet it’s difficult,” he said. “You can get beaten up physically. I believe I’m going to change the philosophy of [our] scheduling. When you play those types of teams you’d better have your A-plus game, plus there are other things you have to contend with.”

With that, O’Brien brings us back to officiating.

I prefer to believe officials are honorable.

They’re human, and they’re not perfect, and there has never been a perfectly officiated game.

But it should go without saying that there is no excuse for an instant replay judge to be so imperfect.

Still, the final score was Syracuse 33, Toledo 30.

Despite the angst of UT’s athletic director and coach, their request for a reversal is unprecedented and likely will be ignored.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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