Texas Tech football: Big 12’s mea culpa hollow and meaningless to Red Raiders

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 13: A detail of a penalty flag during the game between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 13: A detail of a penalty flag during the game between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

In the wake of Saturday’s blown call in overtime that essentially cost the Texas Tech football team a win over Baylor, the Big 12 privately acknowledged the officiating error…so what?

I hate the popular phrase “my bad”.   It is the most flippant excuse for an acknowledgment of fault that exists in our vernacular.  Almost always delivered with a shrug of the shoulders, the phrase is essentially a way of saying, “I screwed up but what are you gonna do about it?”  And that’s what the Big 12’s admission of error on the inexcuseable blown call in Saturday’s first overtime period has become to the Texas Tech football program.

“Our bad.  But what can we do about it?”

For starters, how about we stop protecting the officials as if they are members of the witness protection program.  Why are officials not required to face the media after games?  If we demand that coaches and players give us instant justification for and explanation of what just took place on the field, why are officiating crews not held to the same standard?

Why are they not subjected to the task of having to answer for their actions to the media the same way Matt Wells is?   After all, their decisions and actions often have just as much of an impact on the outcome of the game.

What’s even more comical is that the Big 12 didn’t even have the gumption to publicly acknowledge the inexcusable error of their officiating crew.  Had Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt not gone rouge and shared with the public the mea culpa he received from the conference, we would not know for certain if the conference even looked into the matter.

"“It is important to state that we have been in constant communication with the Big 12 Conference office from the immediate end of the game and throughout Sunday regarding the illegal snap call in the first overtime,” Hocutt said in a statement Sunday night. “It has been confirmed that the ruling on the field of an illegal snap was incorrect.”"

The Big 12 doesn’t want this latest example of its overall refereeing incompetence to bring about actual progress and be a catalyst for ensuring that another of its teams doesn’t have a hard-fought win taken away.  No, this conference just hoped to sweep this incident under the rug.  After all, the school that had its ox gored this time was just little old unranked Texas Tech with a first-year head coach in Matt Wells who doesn’t yet have any fungus on his Big 12 shower shoes.

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Who on a national scale will really notice?  Thanks to Hocutt, a ton of people.

The conference hoped that their private apology to Hocutt would suffice in pacifying the man who has become one of the most powerful and highly-regarded athletic directors in the NCAA.   They were wrong.

Knowing that there was no way to receive proper justification for this ineptitude, Hocutt took the only recourse he had.  Put his own conference on blast.

The only way we as humans can begin to make any type of change is to first admit that we have a problem.  And regardless of whether you talk to fans in Lubbock, Ames, Manhattan, Fort Worth or anywhere else in the Big 12, they will all agree that this conference has to do a better job in officiating games where millions of dollars are potentially on the line.

Where will we see any change as a result of this inexcusable gaffe?  Will the crew that made the mistake receive anything other than a slap on the wrist?  Certainly not.  They will be out there on the sidelines again this week where they could potentially cost another team an all-important Big 12 win.

In virtually every other profession in which the general public is so greatly affected by the product that is put forth, there is accountability when people screw up.  Attorneys that are found to have violated the ethical standards of their profession are disbarred.  Fast-food workers that spit in someone’s burger are fired.  Accountants that make honest but costly errors in their calculations are handed a pink slip.

But when was the last time a Big 12 football referee was held accountable for his failures to execute his job to the expected standards outside of a written admonishment that is kept in his file in the dark recesses of the conference offices never to see the light of day?   The ratio of Big 12 officiating screw-ups to transparent attempts by the Big 12 to get better is so far out of balance that fans of any program in this conference now view Big 12 officiating as something akin to organized crime.

This weekend’s call that damned the Red Raiders was not a judgment call that could have gone either way.  This was one of the more simple calls an official has to make.  If the center snaps the ball but doesn’t let go of it, he is guilty of an illegal snap because he’s tried to simulate the start of the play.  But as soon as he snaps the ball and releases it, as the Baylor center did, the play is live.  Even middle school officials are knowledgeable enough to know that.

On top of that, the same crew had already assessed a 15-yard penalty against Texas Tech earlier in the game for a flag thrown on a Baylor player.  On Evan Rambo’s 23-yard return of an interception in the first quarter, a flag was thrown and it was announced that No. 79 on the defense had committed an illegal block.

The problem was that there was no player on the defense wearing that number.  But No. 79 of Baylor was on the field at the time and did throw an illegal blindside hit during the play.  Still, the yardage was marched off against Tech resulting in a 30-yard difference in field position.  How that happens at such a high level of college football is truly baffling (especially given how ugly Baylor’s uniforms were, making it impossible not to distinguish between the two teams).

Still, that incompetent Big 12 officiating crew, which is being paid as much for each game as many of the blue-collar workers in the stands earn in a month, is going to be allowed to keep its job despite making game-changing errors on obvious calls.  But at least the conference apologized to Hocutt in private.  That makes the situation better, doesn’t it?

Certainly, Texas Tech had more than its chances in Waco to win.  We’ve already discussed those on this site in the wake of the game.  Tech should have never let this game get to OT.  But that’s not the point of this argument.

This isn’t just about Tech being screwed.  It’s about a Big 12 conference that generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually being content to let its most important product to continue to be presided over by people who are proving on an all-to-common basis to be ill-equipped to perform the job they have been entrusted with.

The Big 12’s football slogan is that “Every Game Matters” because of the round-robin nature of the league.  But that’s not a mantra the league brass is living up to.  If every game mattered, we wouldn’t see multiple games a year decided by controversial and egregious officiating mistakes.

Next. Coaching decisions that backfired in Baylor game. dark

When a team fights its tail off to get into position to beat a ranked rival on the road only to have that effort negated by officiating incompetence, you’ll have to forvige us for not being satisfied when the league shrugs its shoulders and simply says “Our bad.”  Especially when it doesn’t even have the decency to say so publically.