Our Opinion: Thanks, anyway

Monday, January 16, 2006

Iowa Hawkeye fans take solace, a Conference USA official has admitted that their league officials made a mistake when they flagged Iowa's Chad Greenway for being offside late in the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl.

The Hawks had rallied to within seven points, 31-24 with 1:24 left in the game against Florida when they attempted an onside kickoff. Hawkeye Scott Chandler recovered the kickoff, but teammate Chad Greenway was called offsides by the referees. As thousands of television viewers saw on the replay, Greenway was behind the line of scrimmage when kicker Kyle Schlicher's foot hit the ball.

Forced to kick the ball again, Florida recovered the next kick and was able to run out the clock to seal the win.

C-USA coordinator of officials Gerald Austin told the Des Moines Register that the offsides penalty was one of five Outback Bowl plays under review by the league. "Out of approximately 175 plays in this game, we have five under specific review -- including an important call at the end of the game," Austin said. "We do teach our officials that toward the end of the game, the calls should clearly be a foul. In this case, the onside kickoff call was too technical and should not have been made."

The admission has no impact on the game's outcome.

NCAA football managing director Dennis Poppe said the penalty in the Outback Bowl -- along with a questionable call at the end of the Alamo Bowl between Nebraska and Michigan -- forced the NCAA to review its crew selection and protocol process. The issues will be put on the agenda for the NCAA's spring meetings.

The NCAA picks which conferences will provide officials for bowl games to ensure neutrality.

As painful as it was to witness, perhaps some good will come out of the Hawkeyes' misfortune. By putting officiating on the agenda of its spring meeting, perhaps the NCAA will finally properly address this issue and games will be decided on the merits of the play and not the skill -- or lack of skill -- of the officials.