NEW YORK (AP) What clearly was a fumble became an incomplete pass and the game between Wisconsin and Fresno State took a drastic turn in favor of the Bulldogs.
It had all the makings of a major officiating controversy, but the Badgers of the Big Ten did the Western Athletic Conference and its officials a favor by overcoming the blown call by a replay official and winning 13-10 on Saturday night.
If Fresno State had won, the WAC would've found itself in the kind of high-profile mess the Pac-10 went through two years ago when Oregon beat Oklahoma with the help of a blown call by Pac-10 officials.
Some day in the not so distant future, college football officials might no longer work for conferences, instead being part of a national organization.
That won't eliminate blown calls, but it might help squash the perception that in nonconference games officials tend to give preferential treatment to the school that helps pay their salaries. It also could provide more consistent officiating across the country.
That's the goal of the College Football Officiating, LLC, created last year by the NCAA and Conference Commissioners Association, and in its first season of operation.
One of its first moves was to hire David Parry, the longtime coordinator of Big Ten officials, to be the national coordinator of officials.
Among Parry's first steps toward breaking down the boundaries, was to hold national clinics for on-field and replay officials.
"The goal was to get more conferences under the same roof and hearing the same sermon," Parry said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The CFO also put out videos about points of emphasis for officials this season. The two areas highlighted were unnecessary roughness and sportsmanship. The latter in part helps explain why Washington's Jake Locker was flagged for excessive celebration two weeks ago after scoring a late TD against BYU and tossing the ball in the air.
The CFO also provides manuals to officials and video instruction throughout the season.
"The bottom line of all of this: We hope to have a common product of officiating so the game in Michigan, the game in California and the game Florida is the same product," Parry said. "We want to eliminate the phrase ... 'In our conference, we don't call it that way.'
"To put those days behind us and have consistency and standardization. To be all on the same page when officiating college football games."
And maybe one day take the conference names off the striped shirts, altogether.
"We've been talking about this the last five years around the commissioners' table," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said. "I remember suggesting five or six years ago going to a neutral crews in nonconference games.
"The reality of trying to manage that wasn't realistic."
The WAC, Mountain West and Big 12 did take a step in that direction even before the NCAA decided to get involved in college football officiating the way it has been for years in college basketball.
Last season the three conferences created a combined crew, consisting of three officials from the Big 12 and two each from the other leagues. This season there are two such crews working games around the West.
The Pac-10 was invited to be involved in the combo crews, but declined, Benson said.
"We're hoping what we're doing regionally will be the model (for the rest of the country)," he said.
An all-WAC crew worked the Fresno State-Wisconsin game. On Wednesday, the league said the replay official incorrectly overturned the ruling on the field.
Even before the game was played, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema made it known he was not happy to be playing with WAC officials. He didn't like the performance of a WAC crew in Wisconsin's Outback Bowl loss to Tennessee last season.
The Badgers even offered a deal to the Bulldogs: Big Ten officials at your place and WAC officials when the teams play in Madison next year
While even the perception of favoritism being shown by officials is unhealthy for any sport, the bigger concern among coaches seems to be reliability, knowing each game will be called the same way.
"You hear people talk about it (favoritism)," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "But I don't know how real it is. In general, you get very professional jobs and I appreciate working with the guys that we have across the country."
Parry said that getting all the officials under one umbrella and turning, for example, Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference officials into southern regional officials, is not likely to happen in the next couple of seasons. But the creation of the CFO points college football in that direction.
"We're having more serious discussions on the blending of crews and regionalizing of officials than ever before," Parry said. "Change is on the way."
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in San Francisco contributed to this report.