- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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If you read the Weekend Rewind earlier, you saw my exhaustive thoughts on the ending of the Wisconsin-Arizona State game. After studying the final 18 seconds like it was the Zapruder film, I came away with no doubts whatsoever that the officials royally screwed up and needed to face discipline.
The Pac-12 agreed and issued the following statement on Monday afternoon:
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has reprimanded and taken additional sanctions against officials in Saturday night's Wisconsin at Arizona State game for failing to properly administer the end-of-game situation and act with appropriate urgency on the game's final play, it was announced today.
With 18 seconds remaining in the game, Wisconsin's quarterback ran the ball toward the center of the field, touched his knee to the ground and then placed the ball on the ground. There was initial uncertainty over whether the quarterback had taken a knee, given himself up or fumbled the ball. As a result several Arizona State players considered the ball live and a fumble, and attempted to recover the ball.
Neither the referee nor anyone on his crew moved with appropriate urgency to clearly communicate that the ball was to be spotted so play could resume promptly.
"This was an unusual situation to end the game," Scott said. “After a thorough review, we have determined that the officials fell short of the high standard in which Pac-12 games should be managed. We will continue to work with all our officials to ensure this type of situation never occurs again."
So there you go, Wisconsin fans. Are you happy now?
That question was both rhetorical and sarcastic, as the Pac-12's decision does very little to assuage the pain of the 32-30 loss for Badgers fans. In fact, admitting that the officials were wrong in some ways makes the defeat harder to stomach, because Wisconsin now for sure knows it should have had a chance to kick a potential game-winning field goal but got robbed by incompetence. (In much the same way, I can never hear the name Don Denkinger without getting angry. Not proud of it, but it's true.)
The Pac-12 release came right about the same time as Badgers coach Gary Andersen was having his weekly news conference on Monday. When the statement was read to him, Andersen initially shrugged his shoulders. But when asked directly about it, he said, "It doesn't change the outcome, but it's accountability."
Well, sort of. We don't know what the "additional sanctions" were against the officials, and unfortunately, reprimands don't count in the standings. At the very least, that crew -- and especially the umpire and the referee, who were the most to blame -- should not be allowed to work another important game for a while. The Pac-12 also failed anywhere in that statement to issue an apology to Wisconsin, and though Scott called it an "unusual situation," the Badgers actually followed the letter of the NCAA rules in downing the ball on the Arizona State 15-yard line. The most "unusual" thing about the play was an officiating crew that acted like the final seconds of a two-point game was no big deal.
Then again, there's very little that the Pac-12 or anybody could have done to make that mistake right. They're not going to replay the game, or pick up again with 18 seconds to go. There's not going to be an asterisk next to the result. All Wisconsin can do is move on, try to take some positives out of how they played in a tough spot on the road and use the loss as motivation. Deep down, they can feel vindicated that they were the wronged party. And though they clearly are upset about the whole thing, the Badgers have so far handled everything with poise and class.
Andersen also said on Monday that the Badgers executed that kneel down exactly as it had been practiced, including Joel Stave's placement of the ball on the ground. He said that was done to make the spotting of the ball actually go faster, and that Wisconsin would do it the same way again.
Next time, maybe they'll get an officiating crew that will know how to properly administer the game.