9.20-Memo to Dr. White: An Official Mess

I was going pen a rant about officiating and the absurd situation Notre Dame is in using opponents’ referees, but KLav and Andy Cross have done the job for me.

The bottom line is that Kevin White needs to show leadership and strength and address a situation that’s not revenue producing.

Memo to White: referee screw jobs do affect long-term revenue production, perhaps even more than a jumbotron.

Notre Dame is the fifth most penalized team in the NCAA. The Irish have been flagged for ten holding calls this year. Our opponents: zero, goose egg, nada, the big ‘O’. After watching offensive linemen do everything but check Abiamiri’s prostate this year, it’s impossible to conclude that zero is a fair number. Notre Dame lost and was beaten by Michigan regardless of officiating, BUT that does not excuse Notre Dame allowing an inequitable playing field.

From KLav:

I know from experience that there in no group of people from the Big 10
(or any conference for that matter) that will look at a tape of yesterdays game
and “grade” the officials unless Notre Dame or Michigan asks for a formal review
to take place, with detailed accounts of the perceived incompetence. Also, the
“results” of this fictional meeting would never be revealed to us. Do you really
think the head of Big 10 officials is going to call Kevin White or Charlie Weis
and say “Yep. You guys were right. My guys really @#$@$ up.”

However, I just want to add that there is no memo sent out, or phone call
made to the officials that work our games directing a crew to see the game in
our opponents favor. It hasn’t happened, and it will never happen. The
incompetence is far more subtle. The real source of the slanted field is born in
the FACT that these Big 10 crews might work one Notre Dame game every 2 years.
There is no “connection” made between our coaching staff and the officials. How
many Michigan games has that head linesman worked in his life? How many Notre
Dame games has he worked in his life? How many pre-game meetings has the Referee had with Joe Paterno? Joe Tiller? Lloyd Carr? How many has he had with Charlie Weis? Do you receive better service from a waitress that you see on a daily
basis, or one at the Highway Diner 100 miles out of town? If you are a CPA, do
you treat a client that you have known for 2 months the same that you treat a
20-year client? When the tire meets the road, and that official out there has to
make a snap decision as to whether or not he saw a hold, trust me, those things
instantaneously affect your decision-making. Hence, we all know exactly what the
term “homered” means in regards to officials in ANY sport.

I have witnessed this year alone, so many calls and non-calls that I could
make a video and show it to a group of first year officials. I would title that
video “Officiating Bloopers.” The worst call of yesterdays game was the hold
called on Rhema on a completion to Smardzija. If that is a hold, then the entire
game of football as we know it is dead. The way Rhema was blocking is the exact
same way that every WR has been stalk blocking since the invention of the
forward pass. It made me sick to my stomach. The good news is that Kevin White
can solve this problem by setting up a relationship with two conferences.
Logically, these two conferences in my opinion, would be the MAC and the either
Conference USA or the Big 12. The bad news is that he won’t do it. The worse
news is that none of us will ever know why. PS- We lost yesterday because
Michigan kicked our asses. If every call or non-call that we saw yesterday went
in our favor, we would have still lost. The bottom line is this… Someone
@#$@#$ up and thought the current situation would work out. Maybe the decision
was made when we sucked, and we just wanted to make sure we had officials from a
respected conference working our games.

The current situation regarding the officials we use is insane. It defies
logic. It is laughable, and it needs to change ASAP. As I detailed earlier in the year, there are many things about football officiating in general that are broken. However, this one falls on our shoulders. Fool me once… shame on you. Fool me for 5, 6, 7 years in a row… shame on me.

From Andy Cross:

I’d like anybody to articulate an argument against the use of neutral crews in all intersectional games.

I think that about a third of all games are intersectional, frontloaded to September contests. I think there are about 50-60 games a week involving D-1 games.

So, I would guess there are an average of between 30 early season and 10 mid and late season intersectional games per week. It seems that this need for refs for intersectional would be best addressed by crews of unaffiliated refs – hired, trained, paid and snactioned by the NCAA (through per game contributions of teams requiring such refs).

In the short term, Kevin White could and should inform all opponents that henceforth, all ND games, home and away, will use neutral refs.

Sure, some AD’s would balk, but they couldn’t articulate any reasonable argument in favor of using captive ref crews. This truly is an area where White could negotiate from a righteous position of strength.

From thegonzo:

Disclaimer: by no means to I want to complain about the UM loss – but an earlier post on the seemingly biased officials made me want to take a look at ND’s penalty performance. First, let’s point out some simple facts:

NCAA average (per game):penalties: 6.1yards: 51.5
ND average:penalties: 9.3yards: 76

So, ND is getting flagged much more than average. For a team that I think most would consider to be highly disciplined (last year we had few penalties 6.5/56 – about average), it’s surprising that we’d be so high – particularly since we’re a veteran team.

If we then look at our opponents, on a whole, they average:penalties: 6yards: 49… or just about the league average. But when you look at their performances against ND, you’ll see a clear story:

Against ND (game average):penalties: 4.7yards: 41
Against everyone elsepenalties: 6.7penalties: 53

Now, this is a small sample set, but from this, it is clear that ND is penalized a lot and that opponents are more error-free when playing ND. Particularly when considering that our opponent’s penalties are often blatant, if not personal fouls – perhaps suggesting that players feel the right to push the rules since the refs let them get away with a lot.

I think an argument can be made that this is due to some level of bias in the refs. Assuming that ND fouls as much as other teams, we’d get another 3 plays back and 25 yards a game. In addition, if our opponents reverted back to there non-ND average, they’d lose another 2 plays and 10 yards.

Which creates a 5 play, 35 yard swing. Now 5 plays & 35 yards did not hurt us against UM, but may make games like GT closer than they should be.

A thorough film review is the only way to determine if this trend is a real concern. If it is, I hope ND takes some action – particularly now that OK has set the precedent that it’s ok to demand fair treatment from the refs.

Oklahoma is taking action after losing to Oregon:

Oklahoma would consider canceling its game at Washington in 2008 if the
Pacific 10 Conference doesn’t change its rule requiring league officials to be
used at its home stadiums, Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday. The Sooners
lost 34-33 at Oregon on Saturday, and Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen has since
said that two incorrect calls by the league’s officials on Oregon’s behalf
changed the outcome of the game. On Monday, Oklahoma president David Boren sent a letter to Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg asking him to pursue having the
Pac-10 remove its officiating policy.

The bottom line here is that the current system is inequitable. And while change might negatively affect the income statement in the short-term, that cost is negligible compared to the dough ND could be losing in the long-term. Pressure should also be brought on the NCAA to standardize policy so that schools aren’t left trying to cut deals to get a fair deal.

~ The Rock

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