Unless you have been living under a rock, the finish to the Arkansas vs Auburn last week was controversial to say the least. Now the NCAA is changing the interpretation of the rules.
According to ESPN Arkansas as first reported during The Morning Rush radio show on Friday morning, the NCAA this week is making a change to the replay guidelines for “clear and immediate recovery” on loose balls following an inadvertent whistle.
CFB Replay guidelines for clear and immediate recovery are changing for this week following the Arkansas v Auburn game. New guidance will allow for replay to consider any recovery beginning this week. Day late, dollar short— Tommy Craft (@tommycraftespn) October 16, 2020
According to Morning Rush, they were able to confirm this with two different sources with direct knowledge of an internal communication sent to replay officials yesterday.
As you must already know, Auburn was driving into Arkansas territory down 28-27 with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter last week when all hell broke loose. With the clock still running, Tigers’ quarterback Bo Nix fumbled the snap, turned around, and spiked the ball in an attempt to stop the clock. This resulted in backwards pass, and sensing the ball was still live, a couple of Arkansas defenders made an attempt to recover it. After a couple of seconds, the Razorbacks’ Joe Foucha had recovered the ball. However, one of the officials blew the play dead in the act of recovery, and upon replay review, the officials ruled that Auburn retained possession. The Tigers went on the kick the winning field goal on the next play, “winning” 30-28.
Obviously, this did not go over well with the Hog fanbase.
I hate everything.— WoOoO Pig SpoOoOoky (@ArkansasFight) October 10, 2020
That crew and the replay official should not be able to call another game this season.— Richard Davenport (@ArRecruitingGuy) October 10, 2020
Hours after the game, the SEC officiating office released this statement:
Statement on play at :30 to go in fourth quarter of Arkansas-Auburn game. pic.twitter.com/L1UQRlFx2M— SEC Officiating (@SECOfficiating) October 11, 2020
Apparently, the recovery was not “immediate” enough to overturn the call.
However, even rules guru Mike Pereira thought it should have been Arkansas’ ball.
Now, less than a week later, changes have been made. So what will be different?
Most likely it means that in the event something similar happens, officials will not call something like what we saw again and embarrass themselves and the conference in front of a national audience.
Despite trying to cover themselves after the game, the timing of the memo has to feel like an admission to guilt by the officiating office and will not be any comfort to Razorback fans who have to live with the consequences.
That said, at least some common sense seems to have finally prevailed. The rules (or at least their interpretation) need to be simplified. Football is a simple game. Two groups of guys try to push each other off the line of scrimmage and advance the ball downfield. Once you get into rule 12-3-2-e-1, it’s already gone too far. I almost don’t blame the officials for their decision considering this and everything else that went on during that play.
In addition, there needs to be less subjectivity. With all due respect, this isn’t gymnastics or figure skating. Timing shouldn’t matter. A fumble is a fumble and whoever gets the ball gets to keep it.
As for inadvertent whistles, while it shouldn’t have been a factor in this case, replay should be able to overturn plays that are blown dead except for instances of forward progress. Once again, less subjectivity, more simplicity.
Thus, the saga of one of the craziest finishes you’ll ever see has come to a close. Although given Arkansas’ luck, they could find themselves on the opposite end of this call if it ever happens again.