At some point, an officiating error(s) in a football game is so egregious, there has to be a drastic change in the process.

The ACC finds itself at that crossroad because what transpired Saturday to end the Miami-Duke game was an abomination that must never be repeated. It was, at least in this television age of multiple instant-replay review angles, the worst miscarriage of justice in football history.

That’s not hyperbole. Nothing compares to the degree of officiating incompetence that occurred during and after Miami’s Corn Elder took the last of eight laterals 91 yards for a touchdown, resulting in UM’s 30-27 victory on the final play. The eye-popping kick return could potentially cost Duke the ACC Coastal Division title.

Nobody can dispute referee Jerry Magallanes and his seven-man crew totally messed up. If not, the ACC wouldn’t hand down one of the stiffest punishments possible, a two-game suspension for complete ineffectiveness.

A one-game penalty happens from time to time, but ACC commissioner John Swofford doubling the consequence indicates how strongly he felt about this debacle. It warranted suspension for the rest of the 2015 season, but that’s another issue.

The Return, which Miami is shamefully branding to make money, should have never been a touchdown for many reasons. One, replay shows conclusively that UM running back Mark Walton’s knee was down before the ball completely left his hand on one lateral. A proper evaluation of that review would have ended the game.

In addition, an obvious block in the back was missed at the UM 16. Maybe the worst judgment was erring in how they waved off another penalty, plus not flagging Miami’s Rashawn Scott for leaving the sideline to celebrate on the field before the play ended.

That means, even without declaring Walton’s knee down, there should have been two penalties assessed from the UM 16, giving the Hurricanes one untimed down from their own 4.

What makes this so inexcusable is officials had the benefit of hindsight to get it right. Yet they still blew it.

It’s one thing to miss a call, or improperly judge pass interference (as UM fans bring up about the 2002 Fiesta Bowl) in live time. But for an entire crew to review a play multiple times in slow motion, talk it over, and still get it wrong, that’s the height of incompetence.

By league rules, an outcome cannot be overturned. But the ACC and every league, where an indisputable bad call (only those subject to review) with no time left changes the outcome, should adopt a rule reserving the right to alter a final score.

It’s the right thing to do for college football. This could well cost Duke a spot in the ACC title game. Technically, it also kept Miami alive for the same reward. Now imagine the fan uproar if the same circumstances cost Alabama or Ohio State a berth in the College Football Playoff?

The ACC has a history of suspect officiating. The worst thing would be to throw up its hands and do nothing. This UM-Duke fiasco must never happen to anybody ever again.

 

gene.frenette@jacksonville.com,

(904) 359-4540