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Support for MEAC replay remains despite controversial call
Tuesday’s weekly teleconference with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference reporters was therapeutic for Hampton head football coach Donovan Rose.
It was five days since instant replay nullified a potential game-winning touchdown catch by wide receiver Isaiah Thomas with no time left in a nationally televised game at Bethune-Cookman. The circumstances behind the loss continued to pain Rose as he kept mum on the controversy as it was under review by conference officials.
Just a hour before commissioner Dennis Thomas released a statement upholding the instant replay reversal, Rose finally had a chance to exhale.
“I thought instant replay was something that was needed to correct something, and I think it’s my understanding that to reverse an instant replay is undisputable evidence that erases all doubts,” he said.
From what Rose saw, Thomas controlled the football long enough to cross the goal plain and plant two feet on the ground for the touchdown. Even with the different angles, he did not see enough conclusive evidence to call for a reversal as stipulated in the MEAC rules.
“When we first looked at it, it was a real fast motion - the ball’s loose,” Rose said. “But then as they slowed it down and when I saw it … I’m looking at it, I’m saying ‘Well, it looks like it’s going back to the instant replay rule and that says it has to be undisputable. If it could have been … you can’t change it. It has to be all that is absolutely no way you can touch it. And so, I didn’t see that. And so from that part, that’s what’s kind of frustrating.”
About a half-hour after the game, Rose said the ruling was based upon Thomas being “airborne” and not maintaining control of the football. Commissioner Dennis Thomas used similar language in his statement.
“The analysis of the video evidence concluded that the airborne receiver did not maintain control of the ball after hitting the ground, and by rule did not fulfill all the elements of the process of completing the catch,” he said. “The rule support for this reversal is Approved Ruling 7-3-6-XII and 7-3-6-XIII found on page FI-35 of the 2011-12 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations manual.”
Here are the two rules cited by Thomas:
XII. Receiver A85 stretches out at the Team B two-yard line and grasps a forward pass and is going to the ground on his own as he is attempting to complete the catch. As A85 falls to the ground in the end zone, the ball immediately comes loose and falls to the ground. RULING: Incomplete pass. Any receiver going to the ground on his own in the process of making a catch must maintain control of the ball when he hits the ground.
XIII. Receiver A85 is airborne in the end zone and grasps a forward pass, but while airborne he is hit by a defender, which causes A85 to fall to the ground. Immediately upon A85 hitting the ground, the ball comes loose and strikes the ground. RULING: Incomplete pass. An airborne receiver contacted before completing all the requirements of a catch must still
maintain control of the ball after hitting the ground.
“I’m still in the dark, no clarity and I know a lot of folks saw what they saw and I know what I saw,” Isaiah Thomas said. “There’s no clarity, so I’m kind of picking on that. But anyway, I know people are hired to do jobs and you want people to do that as best they can, so I need to concentrate on what I do with my team. But, I’m kind of lost on that question basically.”
Ironically, Rose was a proponent of the conference using instant replay for its nationally-televised games prior to last Thursday. Not surprisingly, Bethune-Cookman head football coach Brian Jenkins is an even bigger supporter.
“I like instant replay,” Jenkins said. “From the beginning, I thought it was a good idea and I thought it was balance some things out in the game. I thought it would help the refs a little bit because, like I said before, the refs have a hard job. We’re tough on them, I know that I’m tough on them as a coach. But I do keep in mind that everything is a judgment call and sometimes we can be wrong and they can be wrong. And so, I think instant replay helps correct whatever issue that come down to the wrong judgment of things.
“In this case, unfortunately for one team and fortunate for another team, instant replay came down and showed the correct call and I viewed it the same. From the sideline, I didn’t think the young man had full possession. But on the unfortunate end for Hampton, it led to them not walking away with the victory. But they played well enough to win.”
Despite the setback, Rose insists he and his team’s resolve for the rest of the MEAC schedule remains strong and expects to use the bye week to regroup.
“Whatever reason, I have to go through this,” Rose said. “You have to go through things to get through things and for whatever reason, I’m going through this. But, I’m a soldier. At Hampton, I’m proud of my guys.”
Meanwhile, the instant replay reversal proved most beneficial for South Carolina State. With the Pirates not on the Bulldogs’ schedule, a loss means one less them controlling their destiny in the MEAC.
Bulldogs’ head coach Buddy Pough recently reconfirmed his support for instant replay, while showing empathy for Rose. He was equally neutral when asked about the final play.
“I’ve got no comment,” he said. “That’s not my deal. A guy told me one time ‘Don’t worry about the price of cotton … in Italy.’”
By THOMAS GRANT JR., Times & Democrat