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Monday, July 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A peek behind the imaginary curtain of big-time college athletics

A GRIP ON SPORTS • You can’t make this stuff up. Though sometimes you can. Read on.

••••••••••

 

• Two nights ago, in Fort Collins, Colorado, Boise State, coached by former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice, lost to Colorado State, coached by former Idaho head coach Larry Eustachy. Except the Broncos really won, hitting a last-second game winner at the end of the first overtime. It was waived off after video review, a review that was upheld by the Mountain West Conference yesterday. The conference, headquartered in the mile high state of Colorado, released a video (above) that it said proved officials David Hall, Verne Harris and Tom O’Neill got the call right. Except it doesn’t. No one, not the officials at the game, not the administrators in the conference office, no one, noticed the clock on the video, which the officials used to determine they shot was too late, was running twice as fast as reality. Seems the clock was set to time frames per second on a regular definition broadcast and the game was shot in high definition, which uses twice as many frames each second. Thus James Webb III’s shot was easily out of his hand in time, went in and should have counted. Luckily, the Mountain West Conference officials are making the review of this information an open and transparent process. They let us into the meeting room last night in which the mess was discussed. (No, they didn’t. We’re just using satire to imagine how the conversation went – and to prep a screenplay for the inevitable TV movie. We’ll see if the conference does the right thing today.)

•••

• Scene: A lavishly appointed meeting room with a gigantic portrait on one wall of original – and only – Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson. The painting is of a really old man. Seated around an Italian marble table the size of Reno are eight men in suits, ranging in age from old to really old. In walks Thompson, with three young men, also in suits, carrying his briefcase, phone and small dog, respectively. Thompson, tanned and looking young and fit as always, is wearing a polo shirt, slacks and is taking off a well-worn golf glove.

Thompson: What the freak happened in, where was that, Grilley, last night?

Suit No. 1: It’s Fort Collins, sir. Well, sir, Colorado State defeated Boise State, two members of our conference ...

Thompson (perturbed): I know who is in our conference Herman.

Suit No. 1: I know you do sire, I mean sir. Anyway, they were tied with .8 seconds left in overtime and one of the Broncos made a tremendous shot to win the game. However, the officials looked at the monitor and waived the shot off.

Thompson: So what’s wrong with that?

Suit No. 2: Well sir, the shot should have counted. The replay system, from DVSport, used an incorrect formula to determine time on the video.

Thompson (starting to get angry): There is math involved? What the ...

Suit No. 2: It gets worse sir. The officials relied on the clock on the video to, wrongly, waive the shot off. Last night all the major sports channels, including our partners at ESPN, timed the video and made fun of us. It was unfair sir and I’m not happy about it.

Thompson: I’ll talk to them. They’ll stop it Bernie.

Suit No. 2: Thank you sir. Anyway, our former employee, Chip, released the video today with a statement saying the officials did everything right and that, you know, na-na-na. But no one, not the officials nor Chip, noticed the clock was not working correctly. But everyone in America did and now we are really getting it. It’s unfair. We did our best.

Thompson (exasperated): Didn’t anyone notice this?

Suit No. 3: Well, our intern Brianne did, but we ignored her.

Thompson: Why?

Suit No. 3: Isn’t that obvious, sir? She’s young and, well, she’s a girl, sir. This is technology and stuff. And sports. She can’t know about that.

Thompson: OK, I get it. So what are we going to do?

Suit No. 2: Right now, nothing. DVSport told the Coloradoan newspaper the “system worked correctly” and they are standing behind it. However, they also believe the game should have ended at halftime because, according to their video, the teams had already played 40 minutes.

Thompson: Stonewalling. Good. Can we get away with that?

Suit No. 7: Not really. The media is killing us. We are on Deadspin and everything. Besides, Boise State is not real happy sir. Their president, Bob Kustra, called to say he did what you asked, he fought the NCAA athletic reforms and now he wants his quid-pro-quo.

Thompson: His what? These damn presidents and their Latin.

Suit No. 7: His payback, sir. He thinks we have to overturn the result and award Boise the win.

Thompson: Change an outcome 24 hours after it’s over? Isn’t there some sort of federal law against that?

Suit No. 6 (adjusting his Phi Alpha Delta pin): No, there isn’t. However, as your legal representative, I caution against setting a precedent here. Not only are you opening a can of worms today, what about the future? We may be asked ...

Suit No. 8, who has sat quietly in the corner for the entire meeting: Wait, sorry to interrupt Stan, but I have to. Listen Craig, we talk all the time about getting things right. (Chuckles around the room.) I know, it’s just cheesecake, but some folks in Laramie and Fresno and San Diego actually believe it. We can’t avoid it this time. Stan, precedent? How often is something like this going to happen again? The equipment was flawed. We blame DVSports, support the officials, give Boise State the win and move on. This is just basketball for goodness sake. We have to ask which school is more important to us in football? We all know the answer to that.

Thompson: You’re right, like always, Howard. You guys take care of this. And, when we send out the release, figure out some way to tweak the Pac-12, will you? Say we bought this system on their say-so or something.

Suit No. 2: That will be easy sir. The officials are based out of the Pac-12. It’s all part of the officiating alliance we joined in a year ago with them.

Thompson: We did what? Wait, I don’t want to know. I have tee time in Vegas tomorrow. Just fix it.

(Thompson turns to walk out of the room)

Suit No. 3: Sir?

Thompson (really exasperated): What is it this time?

Suit No. 3: What do we do about the press release from yesterday?

Thompson: We fired the guy, Skip or whatever his name was, right?

Suit No. 3: No sir. After he released it, he quit to work for one of the presidential campaigns. He’s doing their media now. Someone named Chris Christie.

Thompson: Who? Well, we blame Skip and that Chris guy. It’s politics. It’s not as important as college sports, is it gentlemen?

(All 11 heads nod in agreement. Fade to black.)

•••

• WSU: Speaking of last-second shots, Washington State gave up a tying one at the end of the first overtime last night and went on to lose 88-81 at Colorado. Jacob Thorpe was there and has this game story, the box score and videos of Ernie Kent, who was hit with a projectile late in the game, Ny Redding and Que Johnson. ... Elsewhere in the Pac-12 last night, California routed No. 11 Oregon and Oregon State handed Stanford a tough home loss. ... USC’s search for an athletic director affects everyone. ... On the football front, WSU has been featured prominently in this series by ESPN.com’s Pac-12 blog. The blog also looks at the Cougars’ Midnight Maneuvers and has WSU mentions in this look at the spring. ... Luke Falk was in Seattle for a banquet and Stefanie Loh spoke with him. ... Finally, our friend Christian Caple has this nice piece on the Pac-12 Networks and how it is regionalizing games these days.

• Gonzaga: Adding insult to victory, the Zags rode Oregon players to their 92-66 rout of Portland last night. Jim Meehan was in the Rose City and has this game story. He’ll be back today with another look at the win. ... Around the WCC, Pepperdine probably ensured Saint Mary’s won’t get an NCAA at-large berth with a 69-63 win in Moraga. The win also allowed GU to expand its conference lead. ... BYU routed USF and Pacific followed up its upset of the Cougars by losing to Loyola Marymount.

• EWU: Eastern is on a roll, having won eight of its last 10 games. Jim Allen has the story of the most recent win, a 95-85 decision over North Dakota last night in Cheney. Colin Mulvany also has this photo report. ... Elsewhere in the Big Sky, frontrunners Montana and Weber State both scored easy wins while Montana State set a conference 3-point shooting mark in its win. ... Portland State traveled to Idaho State and lost.

• Idaho: The Vandals needed a lift off the bench to get past Northern Colorado and Jake Straughan supplied it with 23 points. Sean Kramer has the game story. ... The UI women won in Greeley.

• Chiefs: Everett is really good defensively but it wants to get better.

• Preps: The GSL playoffs are off and running with Greg Lee covering the boys districts and Mike Vlahovich the girls games.

• Seahawks: We will miss Marshawn Lynch in more ways than we think. ... The team made a few minor signings. ... The more Cam Newton screws up, the better it is for Seattle.

• Mariners: Ryan Divish continues around the horn with this look at first base.

•••

• It’s Friday already? Where did the week go? Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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