Alternate title: Why are we still talking about this?
The ACC league office on Monday defended its officials' actions in Saturday night's UNC-Wake Forest game in which a Ryan Switzer punt return was blown dead after officials thought he called for a fair catch but replays showed he clearly did not even come close to doing so.
The News & Observer's Andrew Carter reports:
The ACC stood by the call Monday, saying the decision to blow the play dead came because Switzer gave an “invalid signal” before his return – and not because the official thought Switzer had given a fair catch signal.
Uh, right. There's only one problem with that - referee Gary Patterson said this:
And that was said after the officials conferred on the play, so this was not just Patterson's interpretation of what transpired.
Look, let's be real. It seems silly to still be talking about a play that turned out to be inconsequential in a 50-14 blowout. and yes, Switzer returned it inside the five but whistles were blowing immediately so there is no guarantee he would have made it that far if Wake goes full speed.
But it is incomprehensible that the league would vigorously defend such a blatant error, and the mealy-mouthed "invalid signal" excuse simply doesn't hold water, unless raising your hand to the bottom of your jersey number now constitutes giving a signal. In addition, if Patterson and his crew believed Switzer had called for a fair catch, then why was there no infraction on Wake Forest for bumping into Switzer?
Unfortunately the ACC has a deserved reputation for less-than-stellar officiating and stuff like this does little to change that narrative. But a simple "the officials erroneously thought he called for fair catch" or even a "well, even though the whistle was inadvertent, once the whistle blows the play is dead" would have been better than going deep in the rule book to find an "invalid signal" rule to cover the error.
Moreover, a simple "we blew it" would have put the matter to rest. Instead we are still talking about that play and the boneheaded officiating three days later rather than what should have been the real play of the game, Mack Hollins' tip-drill touchdown reception.