So, the ACC has decided to suspend the officiating crew who blew the ending of the Miami Duke game. After what I wrote earlier this week about officials and accountability, you might think I’m all for the suspensions. You’d be wrong.
Why Suspend Them?
The ACC, to its credit, listed out the reasons the officials were suspended. They didn’t properly rule that the ball carrier was down. They missed a block in the back, and they didn’t notice a Miami player running on the field to celebrate while the play was on-going.
So, is this the scenario under which officials will be suspended by the ACC? They will be suspended if they don’t call a player down properly on replay? Is that all replays or just 4th quarter ones? What about second quarter mistakes. It is unlikely there wasn’t another missed knee down in the ACC over the weekend.
Will officials be suspended every time they miss a block in the back? That will make kickoffs and punts fun. All the officials can throw their flags out at once and then wait for the inevitable block.
Was it failing to notice a player running onto the field with his helmet off? That was the least of the mistakes. Had they flagged that, it would have been enforced as a dead ball penalty. Since the game was over, it wouldn’t have been enforced. Were the officials suspended because they didn’t call a foul that wouldn’t have been enforced?
No, we all know why the officials were suspended. They were suspended because the ACC had to do something. The calls were botched so badly that the winner and loser clearly changed. The game was decided in the replay booth instead of on the field. Sadly, those facts alone were not enough to suspend the crew. The crew was suspended because the outcry was public. Everyone who saw the game, except the Miami twitter account, knows what a mistake it was and many said so.
So, suspend them right?
The calls on the field and in the replay booth were wrong, but this suspension is wrong, too. I’m sure the ACC has some sort of rule allowing them to suspend officials if the best interests of the game require it or if they want to. There’s some loophole that allows them to do this. They can do this, but they should not do this.
There has to be clear accountability of officials, and conferences (who employ officials) need to enforce that. But, the enforcement has to be grounded in objective rules. It can’t be decided based on how loud the public outcry is. When the conferences make public relations issues their standard for administering “justice” they will make arbitrary decisions, like this one.
What if this game was on ESPN3 or wasn’t on TV? Would the officials have been suspended then? I doubt it. If we weren’t all watching the travesty take place live on Saturday night, there wouldn’t have been the outcry. There wouldn’t have been the need to do something. There wouldn’t have been any suspensions.
This Isn’t Good Enough
The ACC would have you believe they acted with decisiveness. They have sent a clear message that they are doing the right thing. They aren’t. They’re trying to slap together some semblance of accountability and justice that has been missing from their MO for decades.
They’re not alone. All of the conferences review (or don’t review) their officials in private. They scold or praise, ignore or berate their officials behind closed doors. Maybe they are excellent at it, and maybe they are responsive to on field performance. Perhaps the best officials rise to the top and are rewarded each year, but they probably are not. We don’t know.
Ad hoc “justice” is not way to run a conference or to treat your officials. Criticism of officials is par for the course and a part of the game. That shouldn’t change. Offering up the officials to the crowd isn’t justice. It’s shifting the focus away from a lack of a comprehensive and transparent evaluation process.