- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Pac-12 admitted Monday what everyone already knew: The Pac-12 officials royally screwed up at the end of Arizona State's win over Wisconsin on Saturday.
Or should "win" be surrounded by mocking quotes? Or be accompanied by an asterisk?
"This was an unusual situation to end the game," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. "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."
The news release said the officials have been reprimanded and will face "additional sanctions," which suggests some sort of suspension.
With 18 seconds remaining in the game, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave ran the ball toward the center of the field, quickly touched his knee to the ground and then placed the ball on the ground. There was initial uncertainty among the officials 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.
The Pac-12 concluded, "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."
Urgency is the issue. The officials shouldn't have allowed the clock to run out because of their lack of clarity. That lack of clarity, by the way, was understandable thanks to the way Stave executed his kneel -- pretty much not clearly discernible in real time -- but the officials' job was to decisively define the situation.
You know ... before the clock ran out and the game was over.
So, Wisky, you get an admission of guilt and your outrage is now officially justified. You still officially "lost" (those quotes again!), but you were wronged. Your record is 2-and-wronged!
And Arizona State, you got lucky because of the poor judgment of Pac-12 officials.
But let me tell you a little story from long, long ago. Sept. 18, 2010, to be exact.
We are in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. On a third-and-3 play from the Wisconsin 18 in the third quarter, Arizona State QB Steven Threet sees T.J. Simpson open in the end zone. Wisconsin defensive back Niles Brinkley knows he's beat. So before the ball arrives, he shoves Simpson out of the end zone.
The side judge, a Big Ten official, is standing there staring at the play. It is textbook pass interference. No judgment is required. There is zero ambiguity. And there is no flag.
Wrote ESPN.com Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg at the time, "Wisconsin cornerback Niles Brinkley seemed fortunate to avoid a pass-interference penalty on the play, as he never turned around for the ball."
Wisconsin went on to win 20-19 when it blocked the Sun Devils' game-tying PAT attempt.
After the game, Sun Devils fans were enraged by the Big Ten officiating. They also didn't like a dubious block-in-the-back call that negated Jamal Miles' 80-yard punt return for a touchdown. They hurled a box full of angry mail my way.
They cried conspiracy. They wanted blood. They were robbed because of home cooking from Big Ten officials!
They sounded exactly like Wisconsin fans do now, though they didn't get much attention outside the Phoenix/Tempe area.
Of course, the situations aren't exactly the same. There's a difference between officials erring in the execution of their jobs, as the Pac-12 crew did on Saturday, and a Big Ten official deciding to become momentarily blind. There's also always a difference between a play in the third quarter and a play at the very end of a game.
But Badgers fans need to understand -- when they calm down, of course -- that this situation isn't really that unique. Losing teams often feel wronged by officiating, and justifiably so. Yet this isn't as epic a blunder as Colorado's fifth down at Missouri.
As Stave admitted after the game, if he had taken a knee in a standard way and handed the ball to the officials instead of deciding to spot it himself, the Pac-12 officials wouldn't have been given an opportunity to become Abbott & Costello asking "Who's on first?"
Still, Wisky, please accept an apology from the Pac-12, its officials and No. 23 and 2-0 Arizona State.