Odds and Sods Still Need to be Sorted

Granted, we're going against the 24-hour rule, but the Washington-Notre Dame game was so epic and controversial in spots that we just had to clean up some of the rough patches. Dawgman.com spoke with UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward, as well as UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian about the controversies surrounding the 37-30 stunning win by the Fighting Irish.

There were two plays in particular that could have given Washington clear control of the game in the fourth quarter. The first one happened with just over seven minutes left in the game. On a third-and-two at the Notre Dame six-yard line, Chris Polk scampered off left guard for what was called a touchdown on the field, but was later reversed after it was determined his knee was down.

Hugh Millen, a former Washington quarterback who was doing analysis of the game for KJR, took a screen shot of the play, and then simulated the screen shot the next day. HERE is the result of the experiment. You make up your own mind.

The second play happened when the Irish scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:20 remaining. Notre Dame decided to go for two to give themselves a three-point advantage. Irish running back Robert Hughes took a direct snap and tried valiantly to get to the end zone, but was stonewalled at about the two-yard line. As he was falling forward, the rest of his teammates pushed the pile forward, and Hughes along with it.

It looked like a score. Notre Dame celebrated like it was. But was it? The officials said it was, and apparently there was no review of the play - but screen shots have shown Hughes' knee to be down before the ball crossed the line.

"We watched the replay on the 2-point conversion and saw that his knee was down and when I scored it was a touchdown," Polk said. "They didn't beat us; the refs beat us in a sense."

In this intersectional affair, the officials down on the field were from the Pac-10; the officials in the review booth were from the Big East. And they were at the mercy of the live television feed given to them by NBC, who owns an exclusive contract with Notre Dame to broadcast all their games.

"I guess you think after about conspiracy theories, but you think the integrity of the game is more important and people will come to that conclusion," Woodward said Monday. "That's paramount, whether they are judging or officiating a game.

Certainly a fine web to untangle, and both Sarkisian and Woodward are letting the conference sort it out through their normal processes. "I don't think we need to make a statement to get other people to pat us on the back and say it's OK," Sarkisian said. "It is what it is. There's nothing you can do about it, so it's kind of like crying over spilt milk. We don't gain anything out of it, so there's no point to doing it. You don't get any sympathy points. You don't get anything."

Woodward confirmed that he has talked with new Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott, and that the conference is reviewing the tape and will get back to Washington with their findings.

"For the integrity of the game, we always have to get better," he said. "And we have been getting better, whether it be football or basketball. There's a human element to everything, and this is something that's going to be part of the game for as long as we live, but it'll keep getting better and better."

For his part, he didn't notice anything unusual with how the reviews (or non-reviews) were handled at the time they happened, but Woodward had definite opinions on how he would have handled the calls.

"I thought the Polk touchdown was very questionable, and it was a Big East crew doing it and it was their judgement," he said. "It was a close call. Was it conclusive evidence? Not in my opinion."
Schedule News Upcoming:
Woodward also said that there would be schedule news revealed Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, but the prevailing thought is that the Huskies have been able to lock down at least one extra home game in 2012 to bring their total to six. A scheduled home-home series with BYU in 2011 and 2012 may be cancelled, with FCS schools like Eastern Washington and Portland State in line to pick up the slack. There have also been recent rumors linking UW with Wisconsin, Hawai'i and Illinois, but obviously the details will hopefully be fleshed out Tuesday.

By adding lower-level schools, Washington will drop out of a very selective list of programs that have stuck solely with FBS teams. USC, UCLA and Notre Dame will be the only ones left.

"That's a legitimate thing," Woodward said. "It's a source of pride, and I wish our pocketbook could be more prideful. But we have to take these things into consideration. I'm just trying to make a schedule that's in the best interests of the University of Washington. That's how I look at it all the time."

The options the Huskies have are simple: Either pay an exorbitant amount of money to bring in a lower-division school - like the Huskies did with Idaho this year - or schedule home-home series. The agreed upon price for the Vandals was roughly $600,000, and that was set six years ago. Today? Idaho's asking price is now $750,000.

"They are going to command a lot of money," Woodward said. "And rightly so. The SEC has driven the cost of the lower-division, non-BCS Division-1 schools through the roof. And we're not going to be held hostage to it.

By scheduling lower-level, FCS teams, it allows BCS schools to have a game at half the price and with no away obligations.

"What I hope happens is that sanity sets in and prices come back down to earth," Woodward said when asked about the future of scheduling.

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