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Tough Call

December 11th, 2014

generic photo of football referee. Photo credit:

If you play sports, you know that playing a game means good days, bad days, wins, losses, injuries, bad weather, and sometimes missed or bad calls by referees. It can be frustrating, but it happens.

In Oklahoma on November 28, in a high school football game, Frederick Douglass High School was trailing 20-19 when they scored the touchdown that was probably going to win them the game, and have them advance to the next round of the the playoffs.

They were playing a tough team, the undefeated Locust Grove High School so this win was going to be especially sweet.

As the coach from Frederick Douglass high school raced down the sideline excitedly toward his player in the end zone … he bumped into the ref.

The ref called a penalty. The coach had similarly knocked into the ref earlier in the game and had been warned, according to news reports.

The ref, however, applied the wrong rule in dealing with the situation. He took away the touchdown when he shouldn’t have. Instead of Frederick Douglass high school most likely winning, Locust Grove high school won. And advanced in the playoffs.

Now the case is in court and a judge is deciding whether the last 64 seconds of the game should be replayed.

What do you think?

Some people believe that the “human factor” mistakes and all is part of playing sports and part of life. That sports isn’t just about winning, it’s also about learning to handle mistakes and injustices, be part of a team, work hard, etc.

One attorney in the case said the legal system “is not designed to correct every mistake that is made in life.”

Others say that it’s not fair to the kids who have worked and practiced so hard all year to have it all taken away by one bad call. And if it can be corrected, even if it’s in court, then it should be.

Locust Grove’s coach Matt Hennessy said , “It would be a travesty for high school athletics — maybe all of athletics — if we’re going to let the courts get involved every time there’s a bad call.”

There hasn’t really been a challenge like this before. Think of the can of worms this would open if the decision came back in Frederick Douglass school’s favor for a replay. Now every school team, anywhere, would think they could challenge mistakes like this in a court of law.

“Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do,” said Brandon Carey, a lawyer with the Oklahoma City public schools.

But some think it’s not about who is right, but about what is right. That perhaps Locust Grove’s coach should have spoken up.

It’s a tough call.

Update (Dec. 11, 1:30 pm): The judge has ruled that the last minute of the game will not be replayed. Locust Grove will advance in the playoffs.

The judge wrote : “There is simply no way to fully and completely replicate the events and conditions of the disputed quarterfinal in such a way that would alleviate any and all anxiety or question of fairness.

Unfortunately, whether in terms of the weather, of field conditions, player fatigue, the actions of the coaches or referees, etc., on the day of the quarterfinal, there is no best way to right this wrong.”

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