The football field is not a movie set, so there are no take twos for flubbed lines, botched scenes or bad camera work.
There are no do-overs in sports.
Those who are calling for a reversal of the result of the University of Miami’s 30-27 victory over Duke are wasting their breath.
It’s clear that the game officials blew it and made multiple mistakes on that final wild play, a delirious playground dream play during which the Hurricanes threw eight laterals before Corn Elder weaved 91 yards for the winning touchdown. Duke’s kickoff occurred with six seconds left. Elder scored 46 seconds later.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Each lateral was the narrowest of escapes, a step back from the lip of a cliff. The crazy string of keep-away tosses will be replayed forever as one of the most incredible finishes in college football history.
But if Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford could take it back, he would. If he could negate Elder’s touchdown, he would. But he can’t.
Swofford suspended the officiating crew from Saturday’s game in Durham, North Carolina, for two games, citing four errors on the play, including a missed call on UM running back Mark Walton, whose knee was down as he threw one of the laterals, and a missed penalty call for a block in the back on Miami on the Hurricanes’ 16-yard line.
Despite the acknowledgment that “the last play of the game was not handled properly,” Swofford said, the result stands because an NCAA rule states: “When the referee declares that the game is ended, the score is final.”
In the chaotic improvisation of those 46 seconds, the officials failed to do their job. What’s worse, in a nine-minute review of the play, they failed again.
“The range of emotions went from one of the happiest moments to one of the most concern and one of the lowest,” UM coach Larry Scott said of the team’s sideline mood during the review. “It was a very emotional time for everyone.
“It kept going, it kept going, it kept going — nine minutes is an eternity in that situation.”
It’s all moot now. Miami won and kept its slim hopes of winning the ACC Coastal Division alive. Miami got the upset after a draining week during which it was annihilated 58-0 by Clemson, quarterback Brad Kaaya sustained a concussion, coach Al Golden was fired and cornerback Artie Burns’ mother died.
Duke lost, and coach David Cutliffe was angry.
“Unfortunately, there is no mechanism that I know of in place to reverse an outcome of a game,” he said. “I do believe there should be. What instant replay is in place for is to get it right. And we did not get it right.”
Outcomes cannot be overturned or any close competition would become a never-ending labyrinth of challenges. Each team would need a lawyer to go before the appellant court of sports. Games have to end with the final out, point, tick of the clock or vote of judges.
The review process was designed to help officials, avoid debates, elevate fairness and accuracy.
But it’s time for a review of the reviews. They are blights on games. The interruptions cause a game such as UM-Duke to drag on for three hours and 48 minutes. Too often, officials go to replay, spend an interminable amount of time looking at every angle and still can’t satisfy everyone who has observed the action.
Human error is ingrained in sports. Every fan has a bad memory of a time when their favorite team was robbed. Missed calls and questionable whistles — part of the lore. Diego Maradona called his hand ball the “Hand of God.” Unfortunately, officials are not omnipotent. Technological advancements have given them more evidence to work with, but the human eye can’t always discern what’s between the pixels. That’s why we’ll always have hecklers.
They could have brought in a CSI forensic squad to determine whether Walton’s knee was down. But then it’s no longer a game. It’s an investigation.
Looking at the big picture, it’s best to take the view that results tend to even out.
UM could argue that Duke’s go-ahead touchdown run with six seconds left should have been negated and that at least one of the three pass-interference calls on Duke’s drive was wrong. UM could argue that the disparity in penalties — UM was flagged 23 times, the second-most in college football history; Duke, five times — was unfair.
UM could argue that the Duke win was a partial balancing of the scales 13 years after that brutal call in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
In the most classic late flag, UM was penalized for pass interference after fireworks were ignited on what UM thought was a national championship victory. But no, Ohio State got the ball back, scored, sent the game into a second overtime and won.
No take two in Tempe, and no do-over in Durham.