Controversial calls in important games happen. I could outline an entire history of questionable referee decisions in the most pivotal of games. But, the worst part about them is that the calls themselves seemingly find ways to mar entire games, regardless of any other events.
Take, for example, the Final Four clash between Virginia and Auburn on Saturday. What you have probably heard of the game is not a tale of a close and hard-fought battle between the two teams. Instead, the dominant storyline has been all about the contentious foul call that ultimately decided the outcome of the game.
While Virginia junior Kyle Guy was clutch in sinking the game-winning free throws with 0.6 seconds left, it was not determined until after the game if the foul call on Guy was in fact correct. Since then, many have concluded that Auburn’s Samir Doughty did commit a foul, but more needs to be done to make sure similar controversies don’t happen again.
The frustrating part of it all is that we have the technology to streamline and standardize officiating in sports. These days, instant replay is available for many sports, including college basketball, but strict rules surrounding the use of such review inhibits its capabilities at times. That needs to change.
If a contested call on one of the biggest stages in sports doesn’t prompt any conversation about the future of refereeing, what will?
Humans are not perfect. Human error is only natural. More effort should be put into making instant replay review an efficient and available tool so that, in the moment of a game, we don’t leave it up to chance to ensure the right decision was made.
Yes, I understand the argument that as a viewer, it is not fun to have a game stopped dead in its tracks in order for officials to review a call. But, we should care more about fair and correct outcomes for our games. I think as fans, we can all agree that we would rather deal with a five-minute game delay than deal with the consequences of our team being screwed over by an incredibly objective call that cannot be changed.
The implementation of officiating technology across all college and professional ranks will be a tough task. The sheer size of the NCAA makes any change of any stature hard to adopt. Cases of instant replay are most prevalent in football and basketball, but other sports are beginning to experiment with review systems too.
In baseball, the NCAA rules have expanded this season so that teams can challenge more types of calls. Specifically, force and tag plays at any base and hit-by-pitch situations can be reviewed. Also, the NFL has made some adjustments, as the owners recently voted to approve video review for pass interference calls.
For the good of the game across all sports, however, the use of video review should not be limited to a certain number of allowed challenges. It should be available and applicable to any and all situations that require it.
If we can eliminate disputes from the officiating side of the equation by expanding the use of instant replay, then we have found a viable solution before completely eliminating the use of refs in favor of computers or artificial intelligence.
Certainly, the controversy will find its way into games one way or another, but if we have the ability to ensure fair outcomes of games, we should take full advantage.
Charlie Griffen writes the Tuesday sports column about the evolution and current trends of college athletics. Contact him at [email protected].