Miami’s Pseudo ‘Lateral’ and the ACC’s Unilateral Decision to Rob Duke


Photo By The Atlantic Coast Conference ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


On Saturday, while the Mets were giving away the World Series, another not-so-important (football) game took place between the Duke Blue Devils and the Miami Hurricanes. Trailing 24-27 with just six seconds left, Miami made a desperate decision to lateral the ball around the field on the ensuing kickoff instead of taking a chance with a Hail Mary. The end result: an 8-lateral play with a bevy of errors that rewarded the ‘Canes with a victory and cost Duke not only a perfect record but possibly a Big 6 bowl appearance as well.

Let’s take a look at the list of errors that were made on just this one play (courtesy of Yahoo Sports):

  • The on-field officials did not penalize Miami for an illegal block in the back at the Miami 16-yard line, which would have placed Miami at their own 8-yard line and would have given them one last play.
  • The on-field officials called a block in the back penalty at the Duke 26-yard line and (correctly) reversed the call. However, they failed to properly communicate why the flag was picked up.
  • The most important one: The replay official did not overturn the ruling on the field that one of the Miami players involved in the lateral play released the ball before his knee touched the ground, which would have ended the game in Duke’s favor.
  • The on-field officials did not penalize Miami when one of their players prematurely left the bench before the game ended. This could have erased Miami’s touchdown because the penalty would have been considered a dead ball foul.

The ACC suspended the officiating crew for two games. However, while aware of the blunder by the referees, the ACC has decided not to reverse the result of the game.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, understandably upset, commented that the NCAA should allow end results of games to be overturned.

To Replay or Not to Replay

 Replay technology has tremendously helped sports in general without a doubt. It has mostly eliminated that ‘human element’ that people believe is actually supposed to be a part of sports. Replay officials can usually get 99/100 calls right, but that one call they miss more often than not seems to be the deciding factor in a game no matter the situation or sport. Replay officials aren’t perfect and no one should expect them to be, but someone has to overrule the replay official when he/she still gets it wrong and everyone knows it. The human element should not be a factor so long as the replay system exists. Nowadays, networks allow officiating experts to appear on TV to explain a play that is being reviewed to viewers. Apparently, those same experts need to be on the field to explain the situation to a referee because he/she needs it more than the viewer.

Also, how could the ACC not overturn this result? Duke lost not because of their performance but because of an outside factor. When a game is wrongly ended due to bad officiating, it should be the one time where a game is overturned. Suspending the officials does nothing to help because when those officials return, they will be allowed to go back to work as if nothing happened while Duke has to deal with a robbery. The NCAA (and all other leagues that use the replay system) should make a decision on the replay system: Either make the right call with the assistance of replay or don’t use the replay system at all because it has been proven once again that the replay system can be undermined and flawed human judgment can still overrule it. Better yet, the NCAA should give the win to the team that actually won the game. If the NCAA can strip away victories from schools because of a scandal, then why can’t it make the decision to reward teams with victories when the whole nation (including Miami) knows that the wrong call was made?