If I were a University of Louisville official tonight, I think I’d be tired of Big East Conference apologies.
Because another one is coming, and again, it is coming because officials did not know the rules of the game.
In U of L’s 21-17 loss at Connecticut tonight, UConn punt returner Larry Taylor awaited a Cardinal punt, waved his hand once in the air in a clear fair catch signal, then caught the ball and proceeded to run 74 yards for a touchdown while U of L coaches and players screamed at officials.
The basics of this play. NCAA rules state that a valid fair catch signal is for a player to wave his hand above his head more than once. Taylor clearly just waved his hand once. In other words, he made an invalid fair catch signal.
But get this — NCAA rules state that even if a player makes an invalid signal, he still cannot advance the ball once he catches it.
Officials determined that the play was not reviewable. The performance of the officiating crew in this game, however, is. The back judge on this play has one job — to watch the receiver catch the ball. His eyes should be nowhere else. They can’t say they didn’t see the hand go up. And once it went up, valid or invalid, the ball cannot be advanced.
People make mistakes. Players. Coaches. Officials. They are part of the game. But for the people enforcing the rules not to know them cheapens the games. And this leaves the Big East looking, shall we say, less than Big Time.
The play may not have been reviewable. But the Big East’s commitment to dealing with these kinds of game-turning mistakes is.
More to come. This botched call doesn’t let U of L off the hook for the loss. It doesn’t prevent questions about how what was the most potent offense in college football suddenly has ground to a halt.
What it means tonight is that there were two losers in this football game — U of L and the Big East Conference.
And both have some major questions to answer.
Now, for your reading pleasure, the NCAA rule (italics mine) . . .
SECTION 7. Fair Catch
a. A fair catch of a scrimmage kick is a catch beyond the
neutral zone by a player of Team B who has made a valid signal during a
scrimmage kick that is untouched beyond the neutral zone.
b. A fair catch of a free kick is a catch by a player of Team B who has made
a valid signal during an untouched free kick.
c. A valid or invalid fair catch signal deprives the receiving team of the
opportunity to advance the ball, and the ball is declared dead at the spot
of the catch or recovery or at the spot of the signal if the catch precedes
the signal (Rule 6-5-1-a Exception).
d. If the receiver shades his eyes from the sun, the ball is live and may be
ARTICLE 2. A valid signal is a signal given by a player of Team B who
has obviously signalled his intention by extending one hand only clearly
above his head and waving that hand from side to side of his body more
ARTICLE 3. An invalid signal is any signal by a player of Team B that does
not meet the requirements of a valid signal (Rule 6-5-3).