12/08/14 – KHSAA Sanctions Football Officials, Officials’ Association for Rule Misapplication

December 8, 2014 2014-2015 News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 8, 2014

The KHSAA has assessed sanctions against a crew of five football officials and an adjustment to the schedule for future playoff assignments for the local association involved, following a misapplication of the playing rules in the semifinal round playoff game between DeSales and Murray on November 28. During the second quarter of the game, on a play when Murray scored a touchdown, the covering official called a foul against a coach from Murray when the covering official made contact with the coach in an area where coaches are not permitted during play. The officials then mis-administered the playing rules by assessing the penalty from the spot of the foul and not allowing the touchdown.

“The foul occurred as the covering official was making his way up the sideline covering the play and made contact with a coach in the two-yard restricted area where coaches are not permitted,” stated KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett, a long-time member of the NFHS playing rules committee for football. “The foul was correctly called and should be called every single time it happens. It doesn’t matter if it is the first scrimmage game or the state finals, that foul better be called. However, any time an official calls a foul, they must be able to properly administer the penalty, and this was not done in this instance. This foul is considered a “nonplayer” foul in the rules, and all of those fouls are to be enforced succeeding spot (after the play). So in this case, the touchdown should have been allowed, and DeSales should have been given the option of accepting the distance penalty on the try or on the kickoff.

“This rule (restriction requiring all coaches to be at least two yards outside of the sideline when the ball is live) has been in place since 2009 and was enacted following a series of unfortunate incidents and collisions, and a couple of years of experimentation in different states. And while the coach has acknowledged he was in that zone and the contact was made, this misapplication was not, in any way, the fault of the coach or the staff at Murray. Misapplication lies squarely on the shoulders of the officials. There is also an opportunity within the playing rules for the coach to call timeout and request a conference with the officials due to a potential misapplication, even if the team is out of timeouts. However, in this case I think all involved, coaches and officials, were likely preoccupied with discussions regarding the appropriateness of the foul call, and were not focusing on whether the penalty was being properly administered. With that in mind, it must be stated that this is a crew error, not an error by one individual official. Someone on that five-person crew should have recognized the error, and brought it to the crew’s attention in time for proper remedy.

“Unfortunately, we are now left forever to play the “what if” game with the students involved in this game, as well as the supporters, staffs and fan bases of both teams. There is no administrative remedy for this type of total human error that would not unfairly impact another party. This also is not a situation where the other levels of play could even use replay to fix. There is no debate about the foul, which the video from one of the teams clearly shows occurred. At the point of the foul, it is left up to the humans to mark if off correctly. Once the ball was snapped for the next play, there is no option to go back in time and the ability to fix the mistake vanished. There are simply no do-overs when the human error element has entered into the picture in this manner in athletics. In every game there are moments where coaches would like to have a second chance to call a different play, players might like to have another chance to execute the block, run or pass; but those opportunities don’t exist. I know for certain, the officials would like to have a ‘do-over’ here, but there simply is no administrative remedy. To replay any situation or start over from another point would be to commit another wrong, and unfairly affect the other team as well.

“We have more than 4500 independent contractors working as officials. When we contact a local association to staff a game, it is with the understanding that they have had training meetings, evaluations and review to be ready for all situations. This time, there was a breakdown. And while the bylaws of the Association clearly, and appropriately, limit the Association board and staff and its ability to intervene on judgment calls, this is not about judgment. The judgment call was correct. But the administration was terribly wrong.”

As a result of this review, the five officials involved with not be permitted to be assigned contests for weeks 0, 1 and 2 of the 2015 season or work past the first round of the playoffs that season, and the local association will see a reduction in its playoff allocation of games for 2015, particularly in rounds 3 and 4.

“This by no means rights the wrong, in my opinion,” Tackett added. “There is simply not a truly equitable alternative. And this by no means should detract from the accomplishments of either DeSales or Murray. The Murray administration and coaches have handled the research into this review, at the same time KHSAA staff was trying to administer the state championship weekend, in the most professional manner possible, and the DeSales staff was cooperative in providing material for review as well.

“As Commissioner, I am truly sorry that somehow, there were system failures in efforts to ensure that the best possible service is provided to the student-athletes, coaches, families and spectators by our independent contractors who serve as officials. As adults, we failed the students and that is never a good thing. And as a long-time (now retired) official at the collegiate level, I know personally that these officials are hurting too as they have put much time and effort into this avocation, and then not only fail the students involved, but damage their own personal reputations as officials.

“We will use this situation in a variety of manners going forward. We will remind coaches and officials about the restricted area, remind coaches about options to help with ensuring proper application of the rules, and ensure that every single official is reminded about the proper enforcement of any and all nonplayer and unsportsmanlike fouls.”

The officials involved were from the Central Kentucky Officials Association (CKFOA). CKFOA Assigning Secretary Keith Morgan stated his own personal regret about the situation as well.

“We as an association have a long and proud history and feel we are widely recognized as one of the leaders in officiating high school football in this state and beyond,” said Morgan. “However, we failed in this situation, and for that, I am truly sorry. We will renew our efforts to ensure that this type of situation is never repeated. Our officials called me on the way home from the game that night and expressed regret that they had potentially failed to provide the service to the students and the schools that had long been provided by this Association. I fully support the Commissioner’s actions, and we will take this as an experience in which our service to students and schools will reach an even greater level of pride and success due to our efforts.”

-KHSAA-

About the Kentucky High School Athletic Association
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association was organized in 1917 and is the agency designated by the Kentucky Department of Education to manage high school athletics in the Commonwealth. The Association is a voluntary nonprofit 501(c)3 organization made up of 277 member schools both public and private. The KHSAA sanctions 43 state championships in 13 sports and 4 sport-activities, licenses and trains over 4,000 officials, provides catastrophic insurance for its more than 70,000 member school student-athletes, as well as overseeing coaching education and sports safety programs.

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