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OU & referee favoritism

Now that Bob Knight has waded in to the Oklahoma-Oregon blown calls controversy, there's no reason for me to hold back any longer. Knight has pointed out that Texas Tech got jobbed in a 2003 game at Norman, when the clock operator gave the Sooners just enough extra time to get off a game-tying shot. But there where no offers of scrubbing the game from the record books from the Sooners for that one. As Knight says, "Now I guess the 'duck' is swimming in the other pond."

Turnabout is fair play, of course. But Seth Davis indicated back then that Knight pitched a fit himself over the Sooners' 2003 transgression. Unlike Davis, I don't fault Knight, nor do I fault the Sooners. They have legitimate grievances, because refereeing mistakes like this have a pattern: home bias. Economists and psychologists have documented the phenomenon beyond a shadow of a doubt, as I discuss in this TCS Daily column from last month. It is a pattern that needs correcting, unless sport wants to travel down the path to staged events like pro wrestling. And used properly, replay review can help.

So I don't join in the catcalls against Oklahoma in this case, because progress can be made if participants insist on improved officiating. The Pac-10, unlike other conferences, insists on using conference referees for inter-conference games at Pac-10 stadiums. As Chris Fowler noted on the Virginia-Georgia Tech telecast last night, they also use sub-standard replay technology, unlike the ACC and other BCS conferences. These facts suggest to me that the Pac-10 approach to producing top quality decisions by referees is somewhat lax.

And it showed last Saturday, *and* in the aftermath of those atrocious calls. Being the college football junkie that I am, I do have ESPN GamePlan, and I do surf to the big games with tight finishes. So I saw the entire sequence unfold, and it was simply shocking. First, the call on the field, that Oregon had recovered, is difficult to explain without recourse to home bias. Oregon never ever recovered the ball! Second, the announcement of the replay decision - "indisputable video evidence" that Oklahoma had touched the ball first before the kick had traveled 10 yards - was incredulous. How can something be indisputable if it in fact is demonstrably false? The Pac-10's response in suspending the referees for one game was simply lame. In the absence of a cogent explanation for promoting a falsehood as "indisputable fact," the person responsible for that transgression should be suspended for the season.

I am a UW alumnus and a Husky fan (lean days, these), but an equal opportunity critic: the Pac 10 has exposed itself as a joke. The Pac 10 office (like my Huskies) has some work to do.