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MADISON - As he walked out of his athletic director’s booth in Spartan Stadium in October 2011, Barry Alvarez was disappointed, just like many Wisconsin fans who watch what transpired at the conclusion of the game.
That night Wisconsin appeared to escape a last-second Hail Mary pass when receiver Keith Nichol was tackled at the one foot line with no time left on the clock in a tie game. But after the officials huddled together and took time to look at a video review, the call was overturned, sending off a wild celebration on the Michigan State sideline and among the home crowd.
It was tough to take, but the way the Big Ten officials handled it, in Alvarez’s eyes, was correct.
“They cleared the field, went to the sideline and let the replay officials get it right,” Alvarez said Monday. “Now we didn’t like the answer, but they got it right. You can live with it.”
Two days after the bizarre ending that cost Wisconsin a 32-30 defeat at Arizona State and hours after Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott released a statement that he “reprimanded and further sanctioned” the officiating crew, Alvarez was still fuming when he gave his take on “The Mike Heller Show” on The Big1070 in Madison and the Big920 in Milwaukee, frustrated by the multiple errors made by the Pac-12 officiating crew working the game that cost Wisconsin a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal.
“Number one, there was no sense of urgency,” said Alvarez of the officials. ”Number two, when Arizona State players jumped on the ball, the whistle had blown so the play is dead. He (the umpire) is trying to get him off the ball and they let the clock run. That was … that’s what I saw.”
Much like the situation that took place in East Lansing after the clock reached zero, Alvarez believes the replay official could buzz the head official on the field to review the situation; a play in which Wisconsin tried to center the ball between the hash marks with 18 seconds left but was unable to run another play with Sun Devils players lying on the football and the official failing to properly spot the ball so UW could spike it.
Instead of asking for help from the repair official in the press box, the crew met briefly before scampering off the field without giving an explanation.
“They were very much in a hurry to get off the field,” said Alvarez. “I would think your first job is to get things right … That’s going to bother me for a long time. I can’t wait to see that official again.”
Following the game, Alvarez made his way to the officials’ locker room and received an explanation that was less than satisfactory or understandable.
“I had some fabrication of what happened,” said Alvarez. “It was an explanation that wasn’t a very good explanation. They said the players thought it was a fumble and they went on and on. They tried to blame Joel, they tried to blame that it may have been a fumble. It wasn’t a very good explanation what they had.”
Alvarez said he spoke to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney immediately following the game, who was watching the game and was “very irate.” Alvarez also spoke with Big Ten head of officials Bill Carollo. Talking to them both on Monday morning, Alvarez said both were still very upset with the outcome.
“Our players did the right thing,” said Alvarez. “The game was shortened for us by the officials. You want the kids to decide the game, not the officials.”
“They went as far as setting the ball down rather than handing the ball to the official because it takes less time,” added Alvarez. “I clearly saw Joel take a knee, spot the ball so that it was easy for the officials to get over and our guys lined up. They knew exactly what they were doing.”
And so did his staff, which was one of the few silver linings from a troubling event that could have been prevented.
“I give them an A+ because they did exactly what they were coached.”