Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Replay Reversal Robs Danny Coale/Virginia Tech of Sugar Bowl Overtime Touchdown

Great Catch!

The Blogosphere is properly abuzz about the controversial replay reversal during last night's Sugar Bowl.  (See also here.)  During the first overtime, Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas passed to wide receiver Danny Coale for an apparent touchdown.  "After further review," however, replay officials reversed the touchdown call made by an official who was a few feet away from the catch.

In the opinion of this blogger, the reversal was erroneous.

"A player 'gains possession' when he is firmly holding or controlling the ball while contacting the ground inbounds."   

Moreover, same rules provide that:

"To catch a ball means that a player leaves his feet, firmly grasps a live ball in flight and [then] first returns to the ground inbounds with any part of his body."

According to the replay posted here, Coale left his feet to catch the ball.  (The critical footage begins about 31 seconds into the video.)  Moreover, he was "firmly grasp[ing] the ball" when his left arm (certainly a "part of the body") made "contact[] with the ground inbounds."

To be sure, after his arm contacted the field inbounds, the ball, still firmly in Coale's grasp, made contact with the ground.  However, nothing in the rules just quoted provides or even suggests that mere contact of the ball with the ground in these circumstances deprives the player of a catch. 

Indeed, the very same rules provide that a player may catch the ball even "with the ball first touching the ground inbounds" if, at the time of the touch, the ball is "still in his firm grasp."

(See Rule 2, Section 4 for these definitions of "Catch, Recovery and Possession")

Finally, it should go without saying that, to quote the same 2011-2012 NCAA Rules:

"The replay official may reverse a ruling if and only if the video evidence convinces him beyond all doubt that the ruling was incorrect.  Without such indisputable video evidence, the reply official must allow the ruling to stand."

This blogger is aware of no such "indisputable video evidence."

Update:  Here is an excellent blog post, complete with several stills from the video of the catch, arguing that Coale maintained control throughout the catch and that the ground did not assist in the catch.  The post is on a blog entitled "Tech Superfans."