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After further review, the Pac-10 needs to wake up

Paul Wulff had a right to be angry about the delay in calling for a review of a questionable WSU touchdown call in the fourth quarter of today's game.
Paul Wulff had a right to be angry about the delay in calling for a review of a questionable WSU touchdown call in the fourth quarter of today's game.

How many times have we seen this.

A questionable call results in a touchdown. Maybe it isn't clear if a receiver dragged a foot in bounds. Maybe it's not clear if a runner broke the plane of the goal line. Maybe the ball was bobbled or fumbled as a player crossed into the end zone. It doesn't matter what the circumstance is.

The field goal unit comes out, lines up, goes through all the motions. And just as the ball is about to be snapped:


You, the viewer at home, and the 60,000 or so people in the stands at the game can all tell, within moments, whether the call on the field was close or not. You might not have known the correct outcome, but it's clear to the average human being what constitues a 'close call'. A reviewable call. And there's usually plenty of time between the 'touchdown' and the snap for the field goal.

So why is it the Pac-10 takes 45 seconds to figure out if a play should be reviewed?

There's something broken in the system, and it's something that was abundantly clear in today's WSU/UCLA game. The Cougars' apparent 34-28 lead was taken off the board by a late call for replay; what would have been WSU's first lead against any Pac-10 team in the fourth quarter under Paul Wulff. Now, the late whistle didn't really affect the outcome of the game. The Cougars' lack of competent goal line offense did more for that. The officials made the right call today, which is the most important thing. And, actually, had the touchdown been upheld the Cougs would have had an advantage in being able to re-attempt their missed extra point attempt.

Still, at some point, the late whistles are going to have a much more damaging effect than what you saw today. Maybe it's a late field goal going through the uprights being called back because the signal came down for a review. Maybe it's the signal coming too late, forcing the officials on the field to accept the next play as complete and fail to overturn a clearly incorrect call. The Pac-10 is playing with fire, and at some point they're going to get burnt.

As much as we love what Larry Scott has done for this conference in the grand scheme of things, he certainly has turned the other cheek to the conference's officiating problems. That's bad for the fans, obviously, but it's also bad for the officials - who need things like instant replay to help prevent crazy fans from yelling crazy things at them. Their job is hard enough as it is, and they need the benefit of technology, which is far more accurate and far less ambiguous. The 'human element' of officiating is overrated. Still, Larry Scott hasn't shown an interest yet in improving the instant replay process, or correcting clear deficiencies like a certain basketball officiating meltdown last New Year's Eve.

This issue, however, is easily correctable. Find a way to quickly signal the staff on the field when a play is under video review. Use a beeper, a pager, a cell phone, morse code - whatever. Or, make it so that (if they haven't already) officials on the field can call for a replay without the booth's consent. Or adopt the NFL system where coaches need to challenge plays, unless they occur in the final two minutes of a half. I hear very few complaints about the professional system - and the whole red flag on the field thing is pretty unmistakable. 

Steps have to be taken to perfect replay in the Pac-10 - a conference already notorious for replay gaffes like the Oklahoma/Oregon game and Brandon Gibson's overturned touchdown against Arizona State in 2007.

It's time to put an end to the conference's replay delay, before it actually makes an impact on the field.