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Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Pac-10 Can't Replay This Mess

September 18, 2006|Chris Dufresne

You couldn't blame Pacific 10 Conference Commissioner Tom Hansen for what he did Sunday with his league caught in the criticism cross hairs.

He skipped town.

Apparently unable to book passage on the Orient Express, Hansen took a 2 p.m. flight to Chicago for "previously scheduled" commissioners meetings.

Before leaving, Hansen vowed the Pac-10 would thoroughly investigate the controversy that engulfed his league over the weekend and vowed all parties would be held accountable.

The Reggie Bush investigation?

Well, that too, but the more immediate matter concerned a blown instant-replay call that cost visiting Oklahoma a victory over Oregon in Eugene.

It's going in the books as a 34-33 win for Oregon, but that's going to wash only on the Willamette River.

Oregon scored the winning touchdown after recovering an on-side kick in the final minute.

It appeared an Oregon player may have touched the ball before it went the required 10 yards, which would have given Oklahoma possession and secured victory.

Good thing college football now has instant replay to settle these prickly questions, right?

Wrong. After a review, the on-field decision was allowed to stand.

Forget whether Oregon even touched the ball early, though, because the officials missed another teeny-weeny aspect of the play -- Oklahoma recovered the ball!

Allen Patrick, No. 23, picked it up after it squirted through the pile.

This isn't grainy footage of Bigfoot, either, it's just about irrefutable.

A Sooner got there sooner.

"We're going to review the tape, have conversations with all the people involved, then we'll have a statement," Hansen said.

That statement, expected to be released today, should read: "Dear Oklahoma. The Pac-10 apologizes for the error in Saturday's game and hopes this does not in any way detract from the rest of your season."

The Pac-10 needs to act fast on this because there's already a perception problem -- even if this was an honest mistake -- because a Pac-10 crew was handling the game.

This is standard operating procedure, Hansen said. The conference employs its own officials for home games and, in road games, accepts the officiating crew of the opposing team's conference.

To do otherwise, Hansen said, would be "tacitly saying you don't trust the integrity of officials."

Among the range of options for the conference is suspending the officiating crew and replay officials.

Keep last Saturday in mind if Oregon goes 12-0 and gets to the national title game and Oklahoma doesn't.

And although you can't change the result of the game, there is a way, in a subjective sport, to mitigate egregious errors.

Clear-thinking poll voters should have recognized the botched outcome at Autzen Stadium and acted accordingly: Don't penalize Oklahoma too much for a game it should not have lost and don't reward Oregon too much for a game it should not have won.

But you think that's what happened?

Oregon jumped six spots, from No. 18 to No. 12, in Sunday's USA Today coaches' poll, and Oklahoma dropped from No. 11 to No. 16.

The coaches' poll is one-third of the component in the Bowl Championships Series standings that determines which teams will play for the national title on Jan. 8.

If the coaches are going to correctly blow Notre Dame out of the national title hunt for a humiliating home loss to Michigan -- the Irish fell from No. 3 to No. 13 -- they must also properly adjudicate Oregon vs. Oklahoma.

In short: Just pay attention.

In Sunday's Associated Press poll, Oregon moved up five spots, from 18th to 13th, for its bogus win, but Oklahoma dropped only two spots -- from 15th to 17th. The AP poll is no longer used in the BCS formula.

In extreme cases, voters must take matters into their own hands. In the stock market they call it a correction.

Next week, the Harris Interactive poll makes its 2006 debut.

Weekend Wrap

* More on the investigation front: There is a growing sense the Pac-10 is somehow going to let USC slide on the Bush investigation because there hasn't been much news on the case coming out of its Walnut Creek headquarters. The reality is neither the conference nor the NCAA has subpoena power and cannot interview people who don't want to be interviewed.

"All I can say on that is that we will pursue this," Hansen said. "I remind everyone that all the parties involved here have lawyers. And the lawyers have advised them not to talk. We have very little leverage. We've talked to everyone who would speak to us."

* The Texas Christian watch is officially on. It appeared early on there might not be a non-BCS team worthy enough to challenge for automatic big-bowl status this year, but TCU is now on the radar screen following its shocking 12-3 win over Texas Tech.

The Horned Frogs moved up five spots, from 20th to 15th, in the coaches' poll. Under new rules, TCU would automatically qualify for a BCS game -- Orange, Rose, Sugar or Fiesta -- if it finishes ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. Before, a non-BCS school had to finish in the top six.

* Early Rose Bowl programming note: If Ohio State and USC win out and end up No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS standings, they will play in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8, not on Jan. 1 in Pasadena.

* You could live longer than Joe Paterno and not see, on consecutive Saturdays, Boston College win two games in double overtime and Temple lose twice by the score of 62-0.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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