Throughout multiple levels of football throughout the past year, there have been numerous games that have had the result ultimately and completely decided by the officiating crew, and not the actual play of the players on the field. I don’t believe that’s how it’s supposed to work.
The two most notable examples of these cases are very easy for me to recount, given I am a huge fan of both teams. The first example is one almost everyone is familiar with, and it came in the Packers-Seahawks Monday Night Football game nearly a year ago. The Seahawks threw a hail mary pass into the endzone with just seconds left in the game, a Packers defender came down with the interception, the Seahawks receiver then put one arm around the ball, and it was somehow ruled a simultaneous possession that gave the touchdown–and thus, the game–to the Seahawks. The ruling was objectively incorrect, and led to a media and internet firestorm condemning the officials for deciding the result of the game themselves. However, there was no real recourse to be had for the Packers. Fast forward to this past Saturday, and once again we have a pretty similar situation. Trailing 32-30 to Arizona State with around 20 seconds left, the Wisconsin Badgers were in field goal range and elected to take a knee on 3rd down to center the ball between the hash marks. After the knee was taken, the Wisconsin quarterback dropped the ball on the ground. Immediately, an Arizona State player jumped on the ball for around 10 seconds so the officials couldn’t re-spot the ball (which should be a delay of game penalty), and even once the player got off the ball, the referees made absolutely no effort to spot the ball with 7 seconds remaining and just let the clock run out. This prevented the Badgers from ever being able to get a play off which would’ve almost certainly resulted in a win. The players and coaches immediately confronted the referees; in turn, the referees ignored them and just calmly trotted off the field.
While being a fan of both of these teams leaves me understandably more outraged than the average person, anyone who is a fan of football should have a huge problem with situations like these. It really destroys the integrity of the game, and it seems clear that there should be some recourse available to prevent game results that are blatantly incorrect from going to the final score. Referees need to make sure they’re well-educated in every facet of the rule book, and the NCAA and NFL should have some system in place where the answer to these situations isn’t simply, “tough luck”. Football games need to always be decided by the skill and play of the players on the field, not on the whim of the officiating crew.