Four months later, it's official. Vince Young's left knee was down.
Whether that's enough for the NCAA to consider a coach's challenge to supplement instant replay is a key question this month.
|The proposed rule would allow one challenge per game. (Getty Images)|
But in March, the 3-year-old oversight panel tabled a vote on approval to gather more feedback.
The committee based part of their recommendation on a controversial bowl season for instant replay. For what is believed to be the first time, it was essentially acknowledged Monday that officials failed to overturn a touchdown in Texas' 41-38 victory over USC in January's Rose Bowl.
As Texas quarterback Vince Young was being dragged down in the second quarter by USC's Darnell Bing, he pitched to running back Selvin Young at the USC 11.
There were three issues: a) whether Vince Young pitched the ball forward (he didn't, video reviews show); b) whether Selvin Young stepped out of bounds during his 22-yard scoring run (he didn't); and c) whether Vince Young's left knee hit the ground as he pitched.
"Oh, it was down," Dave Parry, national coordinator of NCAA football officiating, told SportsLine.com on Monday.
Would such a coach's challenge have saved USC in its quest for a third consecutive national championship? That's a corner bar debate from now on.
The play should have been whistled dead with Texas getting a first down at the USC 11 with five minutes left in the half. It can be argued Texas would have scored anyway, but that's not the point. The point is, the officials -- and the system -- didn't work at a crucial time.
"I went in at halftime to say, 'What went wrong?'" Parry said.
One of two replay monitors malfunctioned during review of the play, Parry said. The bad monitor showed crowd shots while two Big Ten review officials scrambled to watch the functioning monitor to concentrate on the other parts of the play.
"By the time they saw it (Vince Young's knee)," Parry said, "Texas is kicking its extra point."
The touchdown put Texas ahead 9-7. In a national championship game that was decided by three points (41-38), that was arguably a huge instant replay glitch.
"That's not something they were going to broadcast at the game," said Pittsburg (Kan.) State coach Chuck Broyles, chairman of the rules committee. "When the Texas quarterback pitched the ball, his knee was actually on the ground. They didn't have anything on their system."
The rules committee proposed that coaches get one challenge per game. If adopted, beginning this fall, the rule would allow coaches wanting a review to stop the game by signaling for a timeout. If the on-field ruling stood, the coach would lose a timeout and the ability to challenge for the rest of the game. But if the call was overturned, a coach would not be charged a timeout and would retain his challenge.
Theoretically, a coach could challenge an infinite number of times if calls keep getting overturned, raising length-of-game issues. But a challenge would also help prevent exactly what happened in the Rose Bowl: failure by both the on-field officials and replay equipment. Part of the rules committee's recommendation is that backup equipment be used, too.
What the panel will consider later this month is whether those flubs are enough to tip the scales in favor of a challenge. College football has been moving more and more toward resembling the NFL over the years.
After extensive research, the Big Ten used replay on an experimental basis in 2004. Conferences were allowed to use it on their own as an experiment in 2005. Only the WAC and Sun Belt didn't. The average time of games increased slightly. Replay was widely viewed as a success.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was livid that he had to use timeouts to stop play in December's Alamo Bowl. Carr thought officials had missed calls. It was later discovered that a faulty switch in the replay booth kept replay officials from signaling the referee on the field to halt play.
The latest proposals in February concentrated on shortening the length of games. The two-year replay experiment lengthened them a little. A coach's challenge is another matter. That might explain why the oversight panel is seeking input from the Collegiate Commissioners Association and American Football Coaches Association.
The rules committee sends out hundreds of questionnaires each year seeking input before making changes.
"The football rules committee for years, whatever they decided was gospel," Broyles said.
"Then you have a group that is going to override it. They didn't go through the same things we looked at," said Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, one of two I-A coaches on the 12-person rules committee. "We didn't do anything stupid, we just tried to make it better. I've heard a lot of coaches complain about (a challenge) and I wonder why."
Unified, across-the-board replay for all three divisions is virtually a certainty this year. The issue is the challenge. Only the Mountain West used a coach's challenge last year. Games were stopped only 35 times, with only five calls being overturned.
The oversight panel was established basically to save coaches from themselves. Previous controversial rules changes, such as the adoption of a trapezoid lane in basketball, meant approval had to go through all three divisions and approximately 10 committees.
After the NCAA changed its governance structure, rules committees recommended and the oversight panel approved.
Yes, it took yet another committee for the NCAA to become more "streamlined."
"What we have now is 10 times better than the old system," said Ty Halpin, the NCAA's liaison to the football rules committee.
The 12-person oversight panel is chaired by John Cochrane, commissioner of the Division III Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"We try to stay under the radar screen until something significant comes before us," Cochrane said. "Only in the last year have we become the final stop in the rules approval process."
In the case of USC, maybe a year too late.