It ‘Appeared’ Spartan Clock Expired Because It Did

After screenshots of the Spartan Stadium play clock registering :00 before Michigan State scored on its game-winning play against Notre Dame began circulating on the web postgame, the Big East released a statement on behalf of its conference officials who worked the game.

Michigan State Field Goal Formation :00 On The Play Clock

(Both the call and the officiating methodology is wrong on the play)


After review, the conference believes that the game officials correctly applied the proper mechanics and guidelines that are in place to determine, in a consistent manner, when a flag should be thrown for delay of game.

The responsibility is assigned to the back judge, who in this situation was standing beneath the upright. Proper mechanics dictate that his focus be directed to the play clock as it approaches zero. When the play clock display reads zero, he must re-direct his attention to the ball. At that time, if the snap has not started, a flag will be thrown for delay of game. If the snap has begun, no flag will be thrown.

Under these procedures, there will always be a small amount of lag time between the time the clock reads zero and the time the back judge is able to see the football. On the play in question, this lag time created the situation where it appears the play clock expired just before the snap. We believe the snap occurred well within the normal lag time for the back judge to make this determination. This play is not reviewable under current NCAA rules.”

It appears the play clock expired just before the snap”?

It “appeared” the play clock expired before the snap because it did. The long snapper had not moved the football when the Spartan Stadium play clock reached :00. Watch for yourself:

Worse than the call in this situation is that a single official underneath the goal posts forty-five yards away is charged with making it. What about the referee, who on that particular play had a closer and clearer view of both the play clock and the ball being snapped? Both are in his field of vision and unobstructed.

If the referee can’t make that call, then someone other than the back judge - and field judge, who is also under the goal posts - should be charged with determining if the snap got off in time.

If there’s “lag time” involved in any call, then a different official with a better-positioned view should be making it. You don’t hear “lag” coming in to play on sideline, goal line and catch possession calls do you? Then why should there be “lag” involved in clock calls?

Clock calls should never be subjective like holding, interference, etc. If it’s impossible to get it right on the field, make it reviewable.

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