Sprint Option: Closing Arguments

It is with great sadness that I write this column today (and fatigue because of last night’s late thriller of a game). The Clemson Tigers are your national champions and I have a smattering of things to say about it.

Let’s get to the last Option of the year.

Clemson withstands initial onslaught, shines down the stretch…

I’ll be honest, I did not have this pick. I had Clemson covering the ridiculous spread, but not winning outright. You’ll hear Bama fans complain about missed offensive pass interference and phantom defensive pass interference, but the bottom line is that the Tide was out hustled in the waning 5 minutes and lost because of it. Also, you have to think that Brent Venables is staying at Clemson because he has zero ambition for a head coaching position, not unlike Bud Foster for VPI. He is more than capable of getting that promotion if he wants it, I just can’t find anything that suggests he wants it.

Anyway, let’s talk about those closing touchdowns. The penultimate touchdown for the Tigers is where I take exception. Jordan Leggett drive blocked his defender into the end zone. The first 3 yards are basically the “freebie box” for this type of behavior, beyond that, the Rule is clear: it’s OPI. Leggett made no effort to get off the pick and his block freed the spilling receiver up to score untouched. It was an egregious foul and should have been called. The game winner was not OPI. Clemson was on the two and the defender initiated the contact. That was just a good play. Still, as bad as the first one was, I can understand the griping on both. But just understand that being mad at the second touchdown is you being mad at the Rule, not a missed call.

Speaking of missed calls, let’s talk about the zebras. Honestly, they did a much better job than they’ll ever get credit for. The game was emotional, but was kept in control by Defee from the Big XII–but, come on, no one was going up against him with those guns he smuggled into the stadium. But, this crew will be remembered for its unwillingness to call targeting and its inexperience officiating receivers who block and defenses that are worth a damn. The Big XII does not play a lot of defense and the scoring in that conference forces crews to turn a blind eye to receiver downfield picks. It’s no wonder Defee and company weren’t equipped to call the game.

In that same vein (popping out of Defee’s arm), let’s squash the neutral conference officiating thing. These guys are paid to be professionally impartial; what message are we then sending when we won’t put affiliated conference officials on these games? It’s like, “Well, we trusted you to call these games during the season which included non-conference games, but you can’t be trusted to fairly call the same type of game when it’s for all the marbles.” Give me a break. We are falling over ourselves to appear impartial and have facilitated a less-than-optimal result. The B1G, ACC, and SEC all have football like what was played last night. Those crews are better equipped to call that kind of ball. Make a dream team, stack rank across conferences, whatever–I don’t care what you do, but the best officials should call this game, not the best officials who are unaffiliated with the conferences playing. Sometimes those things are the same; this time, though, they’re different. 

All told, this was a pretty good season, and last nights game was great if you can get past the boring first half and the fact that ESPN screwed everyone by having a 4 and a half hour game. Still, it was a nice capstone for a great season.

Some Parting Shots for Fans

Florida Gators: November flameouts need to stop happening. Also, many UF fans look dumb cheering for the Tide and then rubbing Clemson’s victory in Alabama’s face. It’s not just UF, it’s most of the SEC. Pick one, you can’t have both.

Florida State Seminoles: Clemson is not your team. You can be proud of the ACC for being the top conference this year (it is), but they stand in your way in both your division and conference. I don’t get the euphoria at them winning. Remember too, y’all have a great shot at being a national title team next season as you have to play both of those national championship game teams early, but you have to go through Clemson. Still, without Watson, FSU is my pick for ACC rep in the playoff next year.

Georgia Tech: You’ve got to stop believing your own joke. Going 3-0 against the basement of the SEC east proves nothing, but it’s been gaining steam that it’s nothing short of proof that the ACC is better than the SEC top to bottom. Don’t let that interfere with the narrative or the joy going into next season. Your replacement QB is a big question mark, but Tech may contend for the coastal–a resurgent VT and Miami could mean trouble, though.

Ohio State: You have got to stop calling for Urban’s job. And you’ve got to start shouting down the idiots who do. That is easily the most laughable overreaction to a loss that I’ve seen in awhile.

Alabama: you’ve got to let the missed PI calls go. You’ve got to stop blaming Scarbrough’s heart (he broke his leg). Clemson was a great team who didn’t quit. Losing hurts, but you lost to one of the best teams in football. It’s going to be okay. Saban will win more titles.

I’m excited for next year. Join me this summer for more long form posts and hopefully podcasts about college football. I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Thank you all for reading.


2 thoughts on “Sprint Option: Closing Arguments

Add yours

  1. Only because I have a specific task I need to do….and I really don’t want to start it right is the official reason I am spending my time with a reply. Plus, I enjoy rebutting aspects of your posts.

    I cannot and will not argue with your points on the calls, Deffe’s pipes, or even the per-team comments. In my opinion…all on point (pun intended). However, let’s talk a little bit about your opinion that the decision to not use officials from playing team conferences is wrong.

    I agree they are professional and very good at their job. I agree they are impartial. I agree some conferences have better teams than others or some conferences have talents in some areas that might not be as prevalent in other conferences. However, there are two realities that force me to not agree it is a good idea to use officials from conferences of the two teams playing. The first is perception. I caution you not to discredit this. As I think we know….most fans are complete idiots, and these are the normal fans. Toss in the nut cases (which all fan bases have), and you have a lot of people who would rather sit on a cactus for a month than see their team lose. Objective crews wipe the smell of bias from the list of variables to question. They may question a call or two, which is normal in any game in any part of the season, but they will not and can not complain about bias. Bias is much worse than incompetence, especially in officiating. Even if it perceived.

    If this was the only reason I have, then I’d be mildly embarrassed to question your opinion. Perceived bias is not enough. Another reality is the bias would not be perceived….it would eventually become real. Again, I am not questioning the abilities or integrity of the officials. This is what I’ve learned in my job that applies to this point. When officials come together for a weekend tournament and various staff from multiple schools are on hand to evaluate, those who are evaluating in an attempt to rank those officials are working against their subconscious. When the evaluator and official is from the same school, what tends to happen is that official is typically ranked higher than they would have been with an evaluator from a different school. Why? Ok….yes, their were probably cases where the evaluator was actually stupid or trying to help out their officials. Let’s set that aside. It is my belief that since the evaluator has been around that official for the last year, witnessed a lot of games and seen a lot of calls made by that official, they tend to believe they are better than someone who they haven’t been around or watched a lot of games with. I’m not suggesting this lends itself to that official jumping ahead of others who are clearly a better official. I am referring to the gray areas of evaluating/ranking. When cases like that occur, the evaluator’s subconscious, working behind the scenes, makes it very easy for that evaluator to chose the official from his/her school. And the thing is, the evaluator honestly believes is the decision.

    This is very common. So much so that nowadays, evaluators are being asked to not rank officials from their own school in an effort to come away with a true listing of top to bottom. Let me remind you that the evaluators are not kids; these are grown adults much like those who put on the stripes. In fact, some (many if fact) are those who indeed put on the stripes and officiate at a very high level.

    An official’s crew from the ACC would have done a wonderful job in Monday’s game. My guess is the outcome would have been the same. But I don’t know. There were a lot of gray-area calls made and not made, and I believe an official from the ACC might have been influenced by their familiarity with a team they’ve worked multiple times and unknowingly decided to make a different decision. With the game so close, one call could have made the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So I agree about confirmation bias, it’s pernicious. Imagine the Alabama message boards if it had been an ACC crew. It would start out as “of course they won, they had ACC officials” and would have metastasized into a lynch mob with pitchforks and torches. Like you said, that’s how crazy people are.

      The part about tournaments that you’re talking about is certainly true. However, if you were to get the conference coordinators of officials together to build a consensus crew, I think we get somewhere. I get going for crew cohesion, and I’m honestly unclear on whether it was Mike Defee and his crew from the season or whether it was Mike Defee and the Big XII dream team with the best officials rated at each position.

      I am inclined to believe the latter, because of my experience at tournaments. Officials can plug and play and function at an incredibly high level. Obviously, there is something to be said for being able to trust your crew mates, but we are talking the championship games. So it’s hardly fair to the players to put a crew on the game with a B+ average when you could assemble a crew with an A average. At a certain point, familiarity gives way to skill.

      I think the most viable solution would be to assemble one of these “dream teams” across conferences. Get all of the coordinators of officials together to pick a consensus crew. Heck, they could tackle it from the same framework as the committee currently uses where the member that may be biased on familiarity or other reasons is recused from the evaluation.

      I’m not saying that it’s a perfect solution. However, I think that there is a lot to be said for removing the barriers that stand in the way of the best officials calling the game.

      Optically, maybe you only pick a white hat from a disinterested conference. But maybe you don’t. People are going to be upset at the officials and are going to fan conspiracy theories regardless. If you take that as a given, I think you should put the best guys out there. It’s tantamount to taking Helio Castroneves from F1 and putting him in NASCAR. Sure, he’d do fine, but odds are good he wouldn’t be the best driver in the field.


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