Big 12 Football: Conference Made Right Call After Reviewing Gray's "Fumble"

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Big 12 Football: Conference Made Right Call After Reviewing Gray's
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

Texas' 31-30 win over Iowa State Thursday night is still being talked about after a controversial ruling by Big 12 officials late in the game.

On a first-and-goal from the Iowa State 2-yard line, Longhorns running back Johnathan Gray carried the ball into a pile near the goal line. Seconds later, Cyclones linebacker Jeremiah George emerged from the pile with the football. But officials ruled Gray was down by rule and video review later determined there was not enough evidence to overturn the call. 

It was a decision that sparked a social media frenzy and one amazing, passionate rant by ISU head coach Paul Rhoads afterward. 

On Friday, the Big 12 supervisor of football officials, Walt Anderson, released a statement that he had looked into that play, among others, and determined that there was not enough evidence from the replay to dispute the call. Therefore, the call that stood on the field after video review was correctly made, in Anderson's eyes. 

Below is a portion of Anderson's statement explaining the process:  

The ruling made on the goal line play was that the runner was down by rule with the ball. Because of that ruling, instant replay is allowed to review the play, which it did. Had the ruling on the field been forward progress, the play would not be reviewable because the goal line was not involved. The Replay Official looked at all five views available for this play: Line Feed, Goal Line cart, Press Box angle, Sky Cam and Opposite End Zone camera. He correctly determined there was no indisputable video evidence to confirm that either the ruling on the field was correct, or that the ball was loose prior to the runner being down. By rule when there is not indisputable video evidence to confirm or change the call on the field, the ruling stands.

On this play, the covering official ruled the runner was down and still had control of the ball. There is no question the runner ends up on the ground, and there is no question that eventually an Iowa State player ends up with the ball. However, after reviewing the video evidence it is impossible to tell with certainty when the runner loses control of the ball and at that point was he down or not.

The conference would acknowledge in this unique situation if a mistake were made, but we do not have the video evidence to prove that one occurred.

Did Big 12 officials get it right?

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Looking back at the video, it is tough to determine exactly when Gray is down relative to when the ball came out. So in terms of the call being made and then standing after further review, that was the correct call by the officials and the correct call by the conference. If video review crew cannot tell definitively either way, the call has to stand as-is; it was not "confirmed." 

But that doesn't mean the call on the field was necessarily correct, and it's perfectly reasonable to question exactly when the ball was stripped relative to when Gray was down. The first whistle that can be heard comes after George exits the pile with the ball. It doesn't mean it was the first whistle, though. 

In any case, someone's going to be unhappy and they probably have a legitimate reason. It wasn't the Big 12's finest moment from an officiating stance, but given how close the call was, it would be wrong to overturn it. 

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