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Guest commentary: NBA official review error is a reminder of questionable BYU game play reviews

By Ken Driggs

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, April 28 2014 9:30 p.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars running back JJ Di Luigi runs into the endzone for a touchdown as Brigham Young University faces Idaho State in NCAA football in Provo, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

If college and pro sports were supposed to solve the problem of erroneous calls by officials through televised reviews, they still have a long way to go. This was dramatically illustrated in a recent National Basketball Association game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers.

At a critical point late in the game, Atlanta guard Jeff Teague threw in an improbable 3-point shot to help seal the Hawks' win over the Pacers. The NBA officials dutifully checked the courtside monitor to make sure that the shot was taken behind the 3-point line … it was.

But wait! It was obvious for all to see, including a national TV audience, that Teague had stepped out of bounds before releasing the shot. Certainly the officials would see the infraction and declare the play null and void.

But no, according to the NBA replay policy, only the shot could be reviewed, not the out-of-bounds infraction. The play stood and was even shown on ESPN highlights that night. How does this happen? Only in America could you have an obvious infraction ignored and a player and a team rewarded by a narrow and questionable policy.

BYU fans are very familiar with this type of official review conundrum. In the 2010 San Diego State football game in Provo, with BYU clinging to a lead, Cougar running back JJ Di Luigi was tackled and apparently fumbled. The officials on the field ruled that there was no fumble, and the Aztec coaches called for a replay review.

Mountain West Conference officials, in a cost-cutting decision, had allowed the TV replays to be coordinated by BYU technical expert Chad Bunn, who then showed the plays to the review decisionmakers. Those replay review officials let the play called by field officials stand, on the basis that there was not conclusive evidence of a BYU fumble.

Two things were obvious to all Cougar and Aztec fans. One, Di Luigi's face mask had been grabbed by an Aztec defender, likely causing the fumble. Second, Di Luigi's knee was not down before the fumble, and San Diego State recovered the ball. BYU went on to score on that continued possession and helped seal the win.

As it turns out, the officials on the field missed both infractions, and the replay officials could only rule on the fumble, which they botched. San Diego State fans were irate, but I could look at it as poetic justice. In reality that play should have resulted in a 15-yard penalty against the Aztecs.

In the aftermath of this debacle, San Diego State fans only made it worse. They took out their frustrations on an outstanding and hard-working individual, Chad Bunn, whose only fault was showing replay angles to officials who misread the only reviewable part of the play.

The height of arrogance came from an Aztec fan support group, which wrote BYU officials demanding that BYU forfeit the game. Only myopic and small-minded people could go to that extent as a result of two missed calls on one play, which should have resulted in more yards for the Cougars.

Then came the play with long-term ramifications. In last football season's game in Provo against Boise State, Taysom Hill threw a perfect spiral to BYU's great receiver, Cody Hoffman. He caught it as he entered the end zone, took two strides to ensure possession and was hit high and hard by a Boise State defender. The ball came loose.

The officials ruled no catch and no touchdown but called a targeting penalty with possible ejection ramifications. The replay officials confirmed the call on the field, which left me with an unresolved issue. Why was it not a catch? Hoffman had secured the ball sufficiently and the only reason the ball came loose was the result of a major infraction.

There is precedence for this assumption. If there is offensive holding in the team's own end zone, it is ruled a safety, a scoring play. This same reasoning should apply to a legal reception for a touchdown that is disrupted by an illegal play by the defense.

All I can say is that I have heard my whole life, "if it works, don't fix it." I now say "if it doesn't work, please fix it." That fixing can't come soon enough.

Ken Driggs of Mesa, Ariz., is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the ’60s. Contact him at kkdriggs@gmail.com.

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