Dienhart: Pac-12 release 'too little, too late'

For Wisconsin, it’s a case of too little, too late. But the Pac-12 admitted Monday that its league officials didn’t “properly administer the end of game situation and act with appropriate urgency on the game’s final play” during Arizona State’s 32-30 win on Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz.

[ MORE: Read the full Pac-12 release ]

It was one of the most bizarre conclusions to a game I ever witnessed. To recap: With 18 seconds left in the contest, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave ran the ball toward the center of the field to set up a potential game-winning field goal from about 32 yards out.

At the conclusion of the play, Stave touched his knee to the ground and then placed the ball on the turf.

Play over, right? Nope.

The Pac-12 says in its release that “there was initial uncertainty over whether the quarterback had taken a knee, given himself up or fumbled the ball. As a result, several Arizona State players considered the ball live and a fumble, and attempted to recover the ball.”

[ MORE: thebig1070.com: Barry Alvarez talks about wild finish ]

This is where I have to place some blame at Stave’s feet. If he would have handed the ball to an official after downing it, the ASU player likely would not have dived on the ball. With an obvious conclusion to the play, the ball likely would have been spotted promptly by an official, the teams lined up and a play (a spike) run by Wisconsin, leaving time for a field-goal attempt.

Instead, the Pac-12 release states, “neither the referee nor anyone on his crew moved with appropriate urgency to clearly communicate that the ball was to be spotted so play could resume promptly.”

This is clearly a lack of leadership by the officiating crew. Someone has to take charge. And, if there is confusion among the officials—and there was, as the Pac-12 release states that there was “initial uncertainty”–the leader of the crew has to stop play, huddle his officials and figure out what’s going on.

Get the play/call correct. That’s what matters most.

Time and again, we see crews stop action during a game to discuss matters—or wait on a booth review concerning a call. In this instance, why wasn’t a similar protocol followed? The officials had to know something didn’t feel correct with how the game concluded. No matter, the officials bolted off the field, leaving America with its collective jaw dropped and scratching its head.

[ MORE: Twitter: Reaction to Wisconsin-Arizona State finish ]

“This was an unusual situation to end the game,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in a release. “After a thorough review, we have determined that the officials fell short of the high standard in which Pac-12 games should be managed. We will continue to work with all our officials to ensure this type of situation never occurs again.”

So, instead of possibly being 3-0, Wisconsin is 2-1 as it preps to play host to Purdue this Saturday. It will be interesting to see if the Badgers’ have any self-pity hangover. There are nine games left—and still a lot to play for.

Watch the crazy ending to the game below:

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (8 Comments)
bob jones on 9/16/2013 @ 2:56pm EDT Said:

Wisconsin got homered, plain and simple. Officials need to be disciplined, something very wrong with how the end of the game was handled, appeared they were determined to see that there were no more snaps.

Richard on 9/16/2013 @ 4:02pm EDT Said:

I have watched the end of the Wisconsin game ten or twelve times now, and don’t understand at all why there are questions about what happened or didn’t happen. The play unfolded like this…

1. Ball snap to WI quarterback.
2. WI Quarterback moves to center of field to give his kicker a perfect angle.
3. WI Quarterback places ball on the ground and backs away.
4. WI Quarterback does not touch the ground with his knee.
5. WI Quarterback does not call time out.
6. Clock continues to run… as it should.
7. ASU player covers FUMBLED ball and time runs out.

The ONLY issue is that the officials should have stopped the clock immediately when ASU took possession, and the ASU offense should have come out to run the final play of the game.


1. Wisconsin quarterback is a complete moron.

BVistahC on 9/16/2013 @ 5:45pm EDT Said:

You’d hope the officials were at least suspended for a weekend for their actions. There was little-to-no control at the end of the game.

Thumpr on 9/16/2013 @ 6:46pm EDT Said:

Richard, the only moron involved here is YOU. Look at the film & footage; QB ABSOLUTELY takes a knee to the ground. By rule if he simply simulates taking a knee and the play is blown dead-which it was-the it is NOT a fumble. AZ ST should have been penalized for delay of game by laying on the football

reality check on 9/16/2013 @ 8:35pm EDT Said:

Hey Doug the greatest basketball player ever to come out of the state of Michigan was Chris Webber, your buddy Magic would have been on the bench behind the Fab Five

Doug on 9/16/2013 @ 9:33pm EDT Said:

Stave definitely knelt. Anyways, how come Pac 12 officials were doing the game? I know at MSU home games Big Ten officials never do the games, why did ASU get home conference refs?

Rumplestiltskin on 9/17/2013 @ 12:35am EDT Said:

100% correct Thumpr. Richard, you can’t interpet the rules your way to justify a win for the Devils. This was an easy shot for the Wisconsin kicker, but the PAC 10 officials made sure that didn’t happen. Intensional, I doubt it. We played an awesome game but this one should have been a win the Badgers. They were robbed of the opportunity by both the Devils with a delay of the game and the officials not knowing their job. Of course Wisconsin would have had to of made that field goal but we will never know. We get a tainted win.

Richard on 9/17/2013 @ 12:55pm EDT Said:

Rumple…. “you can’t interpet the rules your way to justify a win for the Devils.” What on earth are you talking about? I wasn’t interpreting rules, I was simply stating that the WI QB did NOT take a knee or even come close to taking a knee. He placed the ball on the ground, thus fumbling the ball. This is typical WI stupidity…. like when your most recent coach decided to go for 2 on the extra points even though he was already 40 points ahead because some little chart in his hand said if our score ends in this number and theirs ends in that number we go for 2. I always find talking to UW fans interesting. First they give you that ‘Madison’ BS as if anyone cares that there are campuses in other cities and villages. It’s not like the University of California system where there are major state schools in various cities. Then they always think that everyone is out to get them. I have worked with numerous WI grads and fans. For some odd reason they all hate Michigan and consider M to be their biggest rival. Ask M fans and they could not care any less about WI. Go Big10!! But GO GO GO anyone playing ‘Madison’!