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Jared Sparks Caught a TD - The Officials Robbed Him- A Lawyerly Argument

Sacramento State v San Diego State Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images

Look, I’m in my fourth year of law school so things are starting to get weird. As an evening law student this is a four year program since I am only going part-time so don’t get any ideas about me being slow. As such, I’ve been ingrained to think of things in terms of the standard of review.

  • Do I need to use strict scrutiny because this is a race based issue?
  • Is this a question regarding gender? If so I’ll use intermediate scrutiny.
  • Is this simply a matter of rational basis?
  • Is this a criminal case?
  • What about proving something beyond a reasonable doubt?
  • What about deciding something based on the preponderance of the evidence?
  • Was this decision from the lower court clearly erroneous?

These are all different standards and they all mean different things. Determining what the standard of review is is absolutely crucial to understanding how to proceed. So, as any good law student knows, I wanted to go to the rule book of the NCAA to see what exactly the language regarding instant replay reviews is. We hear about it all the time during broadcasts but I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t ever actually read the rulebook.

Philosophy ARTICLE 2. The instant replay process operates under the fundamental assumption that the ruling on the field is correct. The replay official may reverse a ruling if and only if the video evidence (Rule 12-6-1-c) convinces him beyond all doubt that the ruling was incorrect. Without such indisputable video evidence, the replay official must allow the ruling to stand.

There are a couple things worth pointing out here. The “fundamental assumption” is that the call on the field is right. Second, reversals should happen “if and only if” (emphasis added) the video convinces the official “beyond all doubt” (emphasis added) that the on field call was wrong. The rule goes on to reiterate that all overturned decisions require “indisputable video evidence” and without that the ruling must stand.

It seems difficult for me to believe that on Saturday against Mizzou the replay official was able to see evidence that showed “beyond all doubt” that Sparks did not make the catch.

If the officials were truly following the indisputable rule there has to be no ability to challenge or question the decision here. I would argue there is quite a bit of ability to challenge overturning this decision. I want to be clear. I’m not saying this was 100% a catch. All I’m saying is that this was called a catch ON THE FIELD and that therefore the standard of review to overturn this and make it a drop was high. If officials are going to use this standard to review plays they need to fully understand the standard they are employed to use. Ever since college football has used instant replay the results have been scattershot at best. Until the NCAA can fully enforce these standards through some sort of transparent review process these sorts of issues will continue to happen. Luckily for now NCAA Football isn’t as far gone as the NFL is. In the NFL no one seems to know what a catch is anymore.