The ACC Officiating: Utterly Inept or Crooked?

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC.  For a while the conference languished as probably the worst conference among the power 5 schools.  And some can argue they still might be if you pull out the tandem of Florida State, Clemson, and Louisville (don't agree with the logic as I think the Big 12 is far worse) from the conference.  But with those three leading the way, the ACC is becoming a silent but steady force in college football.  

But there is a problem and it is a simple one: the referees.  

Since the college football playoff has been started in 2014, conferences are really trying to one-up each other to get better and gain footing in one of the four spots.  The Big Ten, SEC, and the ACC have sent their representative champions in each of the first two seasons.  We figured the SEC would.  The Big Ten is having a nice, strong run so not really surprising.  The ACC has been there with the two powers of Florida State and Clemson.  Had this been 5-10 years ago, the ACC would have constantly sat on the sidelines seeing the PAC-12 and the Big 12 take the other two spots (or Notre Dame would take one of those spots).  

This might have decided the Duke/Louisville game last night. The fumble that wasn't.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Last night's Duke/Louisville game was the tip of the iceberg for me.  3 major calls pretty much affected or could have affected the outcome of the game.  Yes, Louisville played bad but probably was the better team last night, but things really messed up.  Two pretty much came back-to-back on each other.  Jaire Alexander made a nice, improbable return for a touchdown of 90 yards.  But it got called back because of a "block in the back."  On further review, it really didn't look like the Louisville player touched him at all.  Even if he did, it wouldn't have mattered.  Then the Cardinals got stripped of the ball on a pass play where Duke recovered.  He was still moving in the process, but the refs called him stopped so no fumble.  Louisville would ultimately go on to score a touchdown (so to be fair, it might have all worked out in the end).  But let's look at the other play: the kicker being hit by Breon Borders.  Was it a roughing the kicker penalty?  Perhaps, but it was added on two spots: 1.  the kicker moved a little bit forward than normal kickers would.  2.  Nice acting job.  Yes, he probably would have fallen over, but it wasn't like he got shot.  Immediately the tweets came out saying how much the kicker flopped.  

So let's say this: the penalty doesn't get called and Duke drives it and scores with little time left and wins.  Louisville is out of any playoff talk, which means you wouldn't see an exciting Cardinals squad perhaps in a New Year's Six and then the ACC wouldn't highlight their crown jewel, Lamar Jackson like they had hoped.

Inept?  Corrupt?  Who knows.  But had Louisville lost that game, the only team the ACC had to send in would definitely have been Clemson.  Florida State has 2 losses and are probably out, even if the Noles beat the Tigers in 2 weeks in Tallahassee.   Virginia Tech could be nailed for a weak schedule similar to North Carolina last year as would Miami.  So really, for all the talk the Big 12 is in trouble of sending nobody again or the PAC-12 in trouble, the ACC might be in bigger trouble if anything happens to Clemson or Louisville.

Do I really think the ACC is protecting their gems?  Well, yeah.

A first sign of the officiating being possibly rigged.

Let's go back to 2014 with Florida State.  The Noles were the defending national champions, but they were suffering with some adversity with Jameis Winston acting like a knucklehead off-campus.  The Noles weren't anything like the 2013 squad who dominated all in their path.  Notre Dame was rolling on the other hand.  Now the game was a classic.  However, while FSU fans said the right call was made, two things made me not believe it was "right."  1.  the FSU player HELD the ND wide receiver from getting open.  2.  The reactions on the FSU players were that of blaming one another for letting the Notre Dame player score a touchdown.  Florida State wins the game.  Now had Notre Dame won, the ACC probably gets shut out (Clemson had 2 losses at the time and ultimately 3 later on at Georgia Tech) from the playoff and either TCU or Baylor goes in.  

Shoving a referee, whether the ref was right or not, should have warranted some consequence.

That wouldn't be the last time the refs and Florida State were in the spotlight.  Jameis Winston shoved a referee in a key moment against Boston College to snap.  Now, defenders of the action will say "he had no intent to harm the ref" and to that I agree 100%.  But even incidental contacts in college-or the NFL would net you getting tossed or having some consequence.  Had he been tossed, the Noles had Florida the week after and even with Winston, squeaked by in that game.  Would John Wolford at Wake Forest have the same luck if it was him?  But EVEN THE ACC defended what Winston did saying he did nothing wrong.  Would it have been that way if Winston had been on a team unranked and out of the playoff picture?  

Maybe UNC should have been at the 25....or at the goal line to avoid the "offsides" call.

Now fast-forward to Clemson.  With Florida State losing to Georgia Tech (surprised they didn't nail a Jackets player for "leaping") and Clemson later on, the Tigers were the ACC's best chance for the playoff.  North Carolina won 11 games in 2015, but the Playoff Selection Committee pretty much came out and said that UNC, even if they won against Clemson, probably wouldn't have gone to the playoff based on their resume (lost to lowly South Carolina week 1 and beat pretty much a weak schedule).  The ACC Championship Game happened and it was a classic between Clemson and UNC.  With time left and a one-score game going, the Tar Heels went for an onside kick, recovered, and the game was still up for grabs.  But offsides call.  So where is the offside?  Clemson gets the ball, holds on, and wins.  They go to the playoff as the #1 team.

Some Troy fans believed the Trojans were playing Clemson-and the referees.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson played Troy earlier as many projected that the Tigers would dismantle the Trojans.  But near the end of the 3rd quarter Trevion Thompson caught a pass, headed up the field, and got popped by Kris Weatherspoon and the ball came out.  Troy picked it up, but a quick whistle was blown, ruling the pass was incomplete.  Replay showed that he caught and made a move towards it, and then the ball came out.  No call.  Had it been reversed, Clemson gets the ball.  Now another play that was probably up for more debate was when Clemson was about to punch it in for a score, Troy had stopped the runner and snatched the ball back for a 99-yard TD fumble return, a play that could have changed the entire landscape of the game............and perhaps the entire college season.  Me personally?  I thought his progress was stopped, but many do believe that it was a "blown call" by the ACC crew.

James Quick might be buying into the ACC theory.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Later on, the big Louisville/Clemson game late in the 4th quarter.  The 4th down that James Quick came up a yard short on, the marker was way away from the sideline and came up a yard short for Clemson to win.  Granted, that wasn't the actual ACC officiating crew but a local group in an area who "volunteered" to help.  As the play ended, the crew jumped up and down happy that Louisville came up short.  Could have been Clemson telling them to put it back so you don't get hurt or whatever the case may be.  I won't really look into it as a "corrupt" issue by Clemson or the ACC but it is out there.  Plus, I can't stand Bobby Petrino so that doesn't bother me they ended up hosed if that was the case.

But really the saying "fool me once............" comes to play.  You wonder anytime an obvious blown call happens especially in the ACC you wonder if there are other things going of why that happens.  I personally think that the ACC protected Florida State in 2014 from falling apart and did the same for Clemson in 2015 and maybe this year that the teams left playing Clemson (NC State, Wake Forest, and even Florida State) might fight Clemson and the referees.  

Some ACC officials think he was up. Uh, yeah.

But I also am not tossing the idea that the ACC referees are just flat-out inept.  And I am talking about the Miami/Duke game that numerous blown call after numerous blown call happened on the final play of that disaster.  Blocks in backs, holdings, players already down on the ground, and then the replay officials refused to look at it again after the touchdown happened.  Of course, the ACC didn't change the outcome of the game (as they should have however).  So was there any "hidden" agenda the refs had in that?  Unless they were betting in Vegas (perhaps?), probably not.  Miami and Duke were two middle-tier squads last year (though it really messed Duke's season up) and the Canes still canned Al Golden.  

Now, I get referees do a thankless job and I would have actually called a roughing the kicker penalty on Duke myself on first call.  And every conference has their gripes with refs from the SEC, Big Ten, and the PAC-12.  But the ACC seems like there is a shady deck with officiating.  It could be atrocious calls that really decide the game and maybe the refs want to show they still have a place.  Or it is possible the powers that be in the ACC want to make sure their meal ticket is in the big games in January.  While this is a long time ago, it is one reason why South Carolina split from the ACC was because they believed there was too much corruption going on.  But some of these calls or no calls are just mind-boggling, as if they either are watching a different game, have no idea of the rules, or making sure the top dogs get in.  So in this case, the ACC has a major problem that needs to be addressed.

I am definitely not one for conspiracy theories because almost all of them are a bit silly.  And while this might be considered a "conspiracy theory" I feel like something is going on with the ACC that doesn't seem right.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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