Posted by Adam Jacobi
Oregon State defeated Arizona 29-27 last week, and the final margin doesn't accurately reflect how well the Beavers outpaced the Wildcats over the course of the evening. Sure, Nick Foles' 440 yards of passing were massive (that's literally a quarter of a mile, in one game), but Arizona never led, nor did they show much defensive acuity -- even after James Rodgers went down with that horrific knee injury.
So how did the Wildcats hang close, exactly? Some of it was obviously their own considerable skill, but the Portland Tribune has alleged that another reason is that the Wildcats had a thumb on the scale -- namely, with a partisan in the replay booth.
The replay official [was] a Tucson citizen, an Arizona grad and, according to one source, a donor to the school’s athletic department.
The man working Saturday was Jim Fogltance, a former Pac-10 football crew chief who earned his degree from the UA in 1967.
Among the disputed plays:
• Rodgers’ first-quarter catch of a low ball that was ruled a reception by the game officials. After review, the call was overturned.
• Rodgers’ 3-yard catch later in the quarter that was ruled a touchdown by the game officials. After review, the call was overturned.
• A first-quarter bomb caught by Arizona’s Juron Criner that was ruled a touchdown by game officials. It appeared that Criner landed on the 1-yard-line and rolled into the end zone. After review, the call was upheld.
• Then, a catch by an Arizona receiver — similar to the Rodgers’ play — that was ruled a reception by game officials. Fogltance chose not to review the play.
It's also my recollection that the play preceding the touchdown that put Oregon State up 23-13 was itself a legitimate score, but that replay officials ruled Jacquizz Rodgers out of bounds at the 1-yard line when he had actually scored. I'd like to be able to prove that, and I freely admit that I may be wrong -- I watched 13 hours of football that day, after all -- but there are no legal ways (and no trustworthy illegal ways) for me to re-watch that portion of the game to double-check. That seems incredible in this day and age of information sharing, but this is what happens when media access guidelines are excessively restrictive. Anyway, it's a moot point since Oregon State scored on the very next play.
Of the four calls mentioned, the Criner "touchdown" was easily the most egregiously bad decision; Criner was clearly down while the ball was feet (not inches) away from crossing the plane. Granted, the odds of scoring a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 1 are pretty awesome -- there's literally no better position for scoring other than "standing in the end zone and holding the football while the referee signals a touchdown" -- but it's not an absolute certainty, and Oregon State at least deserved the right to make Arizona earn that last yard, right?
And really, this would all be a non-story if it weren't for the fact that the replay official is -- and there's really no other way to put it -- an Arizona man. He lives in Tucson, he's a UA grad, and he's apparently a donor. Do we know that these facts swayed his ability to call the game impartially? No, of course not. They probably didn't affect it at all. Probably. And we can't know for sure, because those confounding factors exist, and the mere appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to compromise the integrity of the officiating in the eyes of many. That mistake's on the Pac-10, not Fogltance, who never should have been put in such a position to begin with. His work affects the game, after all, and it would make a lot of Pac-10 fans happier if the replay official didn't have any incentive -- acted upon or not -- to swing any calls one way or another.