Texas Tech football: Big 12 officiating has become a farce in 2019

DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: Referee Mike Defee reviews a play between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns during the 2019 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 12, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: Referee Mike Defee reviews a play between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns during the 2019 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 12, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

After another day of awful officiating in the Big 12, one full of botched calls that impacted not just the Texas Tech football team, it’s clear that this conference has an officiating problem.

I try to avoid putting a loss on officials.  Over the course of any game, there are going to be more than just one or two moments when the game changes and most have nothing to do with errors by the referees.  But Texas Tech football fans and the rest of the Big 12 have had enough of the incompetence of the Big 12 referees in 2019.

Saturday was just the lastest day in which close games were essentially decided by calls that the officials simply botched.  In fact, there were two.

Of course, Tech fans saw one of those up close in their 30-27 loss to Kansas State.  Trailing 23-17 in the third quarter, Jett Duffey appeared to connect with Kesean Carter for a touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the nine.

But after review, the officials decided that Carter had not made the catch despite the fact that he had controlled the ball with two feet in bounds, turned and dove towards the pylon, which he contacted before going to the ground where the ball them was jarred from his grasp.

This play was the classic case of a reception and a play going to the ground where a fumble can’t be caused by the turf.  Having secured the ball, once Carter contacted the pylon, the play should have been dead and the touchdown should have stood.

It seemed as if everyone on social media and even the television broadcast crew, which featured former KSU player, Ben Leber, felt like this was a touchdown.  We see this ruling made nearly every week throughout the nation where once the ball breaks the plane in a player’s grasp, that player is awarded a touchdown, even if he loses the ball once he hits the ground.

That reversal, which overturned the call made by the official closest to the play, proved to be critical as Tech lost the game by three points.  And it wasn’t the first bogus call to potentially cost the Red Raiders a Big 12 win.

Back in October, Tech was robbed of a rumble recovery in overtime against Baylor.  When the Bears’ center snapped the ball and all the rest of the players on his team began to move on the play, Broderick Washington recovered the fumble which should have given Tech possession in field goal range needing only three points for the win.

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But somehow, the Big 12 referees decided to call the play an illegal snap and penalize Baylor five yards.  An illegal snap occurs when the center mimics the snap of the ball without actually letting go of it.  Once he releases the ball from his grasp, the play is live and the ball can be recovered by the defense.  How can an entire crew of collegiate officials not know that?

As we all know, Tech went on to lose this game in double-OT 33-30 and though we hate to blame a loss entirely on the referees, the fact is that this egregious call ultimately robbed the Red Raiders of an opportunity to score this huge win.

The Big 12 even issued an acknowledgment to AD Kirby Hocutt of the mistake but fined him when he went public with the conference’s mea culpa.  That’s hardly enough to make good for a missed opportunity for a win over a ranked team on the road.

These two calls obviously cost Texas Tech fans what they believed were two wins, which would have given this year’s team a bowl birth.  It’s hard to blame us for being bitter but we haven’t been the only ones in the Big 12 whose ox has been gored this season by unthinkable officiating mistakes.

The week after the injustice endured by Tech in Waco, the Big 12 likely cost Kansas a win over Texas in Austin.

With Kansas on top 48-47 with less than a minute to play, Longhorn quarterback Sam Ehlinger ran for a first down and was tackled inbounds at his own 47-yard line with 32 seconds on the clock. After the clock stopped to reset the chains as is the rule after a first down, for some reason, it remained at 32 seconds until the Longhorns snapped the ball instead of being started once the referee signaled the ball ready for play.

"“The clock should have started at 32 seconds after the quarterback made a first down,” Big 12 coordinator of football officials Greg Burks said on the Big 12 teleconference the following Monday. “The chains were reset, the referee wound the clock and we missed — I’m going to guess — 4 seconds there that should have come off the clock at that point.”"

Six plays later, the Horns kicked the game-winning 33-yard field goal.  Had the clock started as planned, Texas likely would not have been able to run as many plays before the final kick, the final play of which gained six important yards.  Also, keep in mind that this clock malfunction may have saved them their last timeout, which they were able to use later in the drive.

Oklahoma was also on the receiving of officiating incompetence in its 48-41 loss to Kansas State, which could be enough to keep the Sooners out of the playoff.  When OU’s Trejean Bridges recovered an onside kick, the officials said that he touched the ball before it had gone ten yards and awarded possession to the Wildcats despite the replay showing that a KSU player blocked Bridges into the ball.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech Red Raiders /

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Thus, the Sooners were robbed of a final attempt to tie the game.  Keep in mind that when this kick took place, there was still 1:45 to play, plenty of time for Jalen Hurts and the Sooners.

Maybe OU got a make-good from the conference this past Saturday in Norman.  In their 28-24 win over TCU, the Sooners were awarded a game-clinching first down with 1:25 to play on a 3rd-down QB keeper by Hurts despite the fact that all replay angles showed that he was well short of the line to gain.

We could go on (like the time in the Baylor game that Tech was penalized for a flag thrown on a Baylor player or the bogus targeting call against Tavis Koonts in West Virginia where the TE actually let up on the play so to not throw a blindside block) but these examples show just how awful the conference officiating has been this year.

In a sport generating billions of dollars in revenue and involving teams that invest tens of millions of dollars to compete, there is simply too much at stake for incompetent officiating to be the deciding factor in so many games.

It is understandable if the officials miss an occasional holding call or some other in-game infraction that is tough to catch in the flow of the game.  Such is human.  But for these officials, who make more per year than teachers, to in many cases simply not know or misinterpret the rules of the game is inexcusable.

Just like the coaches of every team, these officials should be subject to facing the media after each game, especially since they are so often involved in deciding the outcome.  The Big 12 should also make public its reports and grades on each officiating crew similar to the way the NBA has made the grades of its referees from the final five minutes of each game viewable by the public.

Why are officials afforded protection by the conferences fitting that of a CIA operative?  Why do they never have to answer for their mistakes in public forums the way even student-athletes often have to?  They are grown men, paid to do an important job, and they should face the reality of having to answer for their performance the way everyone else in sports does.

Next. The all-time Texas Tech football team of players not from Texas. dark

Maybe then, we will start to see these officials put a little bit more pride into their work and actually officiate the games properly.  But until then, it seems that the conference that tries to tell us that every game matters isn’t willing to make sure that every game is decided by the players and not the men in stripes.