Fallout Continues from Oregon-Oklahoma Football Game

Two blown calls in the game between Oklahoma and Oregon have set off a furious chain of events, unusual even for the hyper-competitive world of college football. The Pacific 10 conference has suspended the officiating crew and replay officials over the mishap. It likely cost Oklahoma a victory.

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LYNN NEARY, host:

Oklahomans are livid and Oregonians are trying to savor their victory.

Last weekend, the University of Oregon beat the University of Oklahoma 34-33, after a last minute Oregon comeback was made possible by a major officiating mistake. The Pacific Ten Conference has apologized to Oklahoma.

NPR's Tom Goldman reports on college football's first major controversy of the season.

TOM GOLDMAN: Time heals all wounds. How much time? In Norman, Oklahoma it appears they need more.

Mr. JASON GERACE (Graduate Student, University of Oklahoma): You know, I think we're kind of, as a group of fans, I think really still in shock.

GOLDMAN: Last night, 29-year-old Oklahoma graduate student Jason Gerace took a few minutes to describe the sour mood in what OU football fans lovingly call Sooner Nation.

Mr. GERACE: You know, if you get beaten, we can handle that. But to be cheated, to have it stolen from you, you kind of don't even know what to do with that. It just feels unacceptable. It just feels unfair.

GOLDMAN: For those who missed what happened Saturday, here's the instant replay. Oops, bad choice of words. Here's a recap of what happened.

With about a minute left, the Oklahoma Sooners led the Oregon Ducks 33-27. Oregon attempted an onside kick. That's where the team kicking off kicks the ball short and then tries to recover it. After a wild scramble, the Ducks were given the ball. But Oregon violated a rule and Oklahoma should have gotten the ball.

TV replays clearly showed the violation. After reviewing the play on instant replay however, officials still gave possession to Oregon. The Ducks scored a touchdown and won.

Instant replay was instituted a few years ago in college football as a way to correct blown calls. Yesterday, Pac-10 Associate Commissioner Jim Muldoon admitted the process failed in Saturday's game.

Mr. JIM MULDOON (Associate Commissioner, Pac-10 Conference): It was human error. I think our replay officials just got the thing wrong.

GOLDMAN: It's been reported the replay officials didn't have the same camera angles the national TV audience had. Muldoon says that's true, but he says the officials had ample video to make the right call.

The Pac-10 suspended the entire officiating crew for one game. The main replay official, who lives in Oregon and could not be reached for comment, says he's gotten death threats and is uncertain whether he wants to continue officiating.

The Pac-10 has a policy of only using its officials at home games against opponents from other conferences. The policy now has prompted questions about favoritism by Pac-10 officials on Saturday.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said yesterday he may not bring his team out West to play Pac-10 teams unless the policy changes. Jim Muldoon says Pac-10 athletic directors will study the issue, although he defends, in his words, the integrity of all Pac-10 officials.

Meanwhile, sports talk shows are buzzing about the controversy. Here's L.A. Times reporter J.A. Adande on the ESPN show Around the Horn.

Mr. J.A. ADANDE (Reporter, L.A. Times): The Pac-10 has basically said they should have won this game but were robbed by the officials, so let's count this as a victory. If Oklahoma goes ahead and wins the rest of its games, why not vote them the number one team in the country? Stick it to the system.

GOLDMAN: A system in which even one loss can derail a good team's chances of making it to a lucrative post-season bowl game. Oklahoma knows it's in that situation. Oregon is undefeated, but many fans have an icky taste in their mouths with the nation questioning the school's most significant football victory in years.

Oregon fans and players say even though their team got the ball back on that disputed play, Oklahoma still could've stopped the Ducks from scoring. But that's just a bunch of quacking to those in Sooner Nation, where they'd love nothing more than to meet the Ducks in the post-season and settle the game on the field they say, and not in the replay booth.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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