Note to Pac-10: tell Oklahoma to quit whining

Given the monumental bellyaching coming out of Oklahoma this week, you would think no team had ever been gypped out of a college football game before. Who knew, as Duck kicker Luke Bellotti approached the football this past Saturday and sent forth an onside kick, that the college football world was about to tilt upon its axis?

What followed is something that Oklahoma has every right to be upset about: Oregon's Brian Paysinger clearly touched the football first before it went the required ten yards. Following a brief scramble, it was clear that Oklahoma's Allen Patrick emerged with the football. Patrick was standing right there holding it aloft, as he and teammates pleaded with the refs. How replay officials could subsequently claim that they did not have conclusive evidence to overturn the call is beyond the scope of reason. And in the wake of Oregon scoring the winning touchdown a few moments later, it was easy to feel empathy for the Sooners, for having been dealt such a jagged pill to swallow.

Sunday was a time of outrage for Sooner Nation, as articles and speculation traversed across the internet at a feverish pitch. By Monday, it was made public that University of Oklahoma President David Boren had fired off a letter to Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg stating: "… The Big 12 should request that the game should not go into the record books as a win or a loss by either team in light of the level of officiating mistakes. It is truly sad and deeply disappointing that members of our football team should be deprived of the outcome of the game that they deserved because of an inexcusable breakdown in officiating."

If the public pout had ended there, that would be one thing. But it continued unabated on Tuesday. At a press conference, Sooner Coach Bob Stoops brought up the fact that Oklahoma was considering the cancellation of its scheduled game at Washington in 2008-- unless the Pac-10 changes its rules requiring that only Pac-10 referees work non-conference home games. "I think there's no question," said Stoops, "that (athletic director) Joe Castiglione and I and President Boren, if that rule is not changed, that we may reconsider that game, and I think it's justified. We'll look into that."

It was an almost infantile mentality—akin to the sniveling neighborhood kid who in mid-game grabs his football and heads home so nobody else can play. During the same press conference, Stoops never mentioned that his team had been the benefactor of a handful of terrible calls throughout the game's first three quarters. He failed to mention how Oregon had dominated his team physically. He failed to emphasize enough that his team had multiple chances to win but failed to capitalize on those opportunities—even after the botched replay call.

Well, whoever said that life was fair? In contrast to this situation, Notre Dame and her fans were relatively dignified in how they accepted the loss to #1 USC last season. Don't forget, when Trojan QB Matt Leinart fumbled the football out of bounds at the four yard line with seven seconds left, it was the terrible spot by the line judge at the one foot line that enabled Leinart to win the game on a QB sneak. You didn't see Irish fans declaring gridiron Jihad, did you?

The same goes from sixteen years ago, when Colorado was mistakenly given an extra down near the goal line by the officials in their game against Missouri. It was a horrible accident, and very painful for Missouri—but there was no pouting letter from the Missouri President to the Big 12 Conference asking for the game's outcome to be whitewashed.

And with regards to the Washington State Cougars, just ask them about the overtime loss to Arizona in 1999 on a touchdown "reception" where the ball clearly bounced on the turf. Or the Huskies, who in 1998 against Arizona had a long touchdown by Marques Tuiasosopo taken away when a questionable holding penalty was called thirty yards away from the play. The subsequent result was the notorious "Leap by the Lake"—when Arizona QB Ortege Jenkins went airborne for the epic (and winning) touchdown. It hurt. Hell, eight years later, it still hurts. It was a brutal loss. Conspiracy theories abounded on the internet. But you didn't see the University of Washington kicking and screaming and pitching a colossal public tantrum.

What we have today is an attempt by Oklahoma to bully the Pac-10, because the Pac-10 has the national reputation for being soft. This evidence mainly stems from poor showings against non-conference foes and horrendous bowl game agreements and TV contracts (Can anyone explain why WAC member Fresno State was on national TV eight times last year? When was the last time a Husky game was seen throughout the entire country?).

Nevertheless, Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen immediately apologized to Oklahoma for the officiating errors. He then announced that the referees for the Oregon-Oklahoma game were being suspended for one game—which is a move that makes things murkier because the problem was supposedly with the replay booth, right?

The Sooners want the rest of the country to think that they were completely homered by the refs in their game against Oregon. But the Sooners don't acknowledge that they themselves benefited from some terrible calls as well, earlier in the contest.

The prospect of Oklahoma backing out of its agreement to come to Husky Stadium in 2008 would be a big financial hit for Washington. Athletic Director Todd Turner will obviously try to avoid that outcome. But from the standpoint of the Pac-10, even in light of its dubious past treatment of Washington, it would be a result worth accepting. When you look at a situation where the replay official is receiving death threats, and nation-wide outrage of the blown call is rivaling that of the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby, the only proper way to deal with Oklahoma's continual posturing is to backpedal no further.

It's time for Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen to stand firm for his conference.
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories