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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Monday, November 10, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

East Carolina 31, South Florida 31, Zebras 6 ...


It should have been 3rd-and-7 for South Florida at the ECU 22 on the first series of the second overtime with the score tied at 31. That would be the situation if officials weren’t human — if they were somehow infallible.

While officials generally try hard and do a good job, they missed a huge play that heavily impacted the outcome — a tainted 38-37 double overtime win for the Bulls.

South Florida’s touchdown in the second extra period was indeed bull.

South Florida receiver Elgin Hicks was essentially rewarded for his acting ability by a C-USA crew of officials that apparently was not properly positioned to see the play and make the call.

“We sell it,” Hicks told the Tampa Tribune. “They call it.”

USF receivers coach Tom Pajic instructs his players to come up and show officials the ball. Be decisive and try to generate a favorable call is the thinking. It worked at a vital time on Saturday. The field judge was on the sideline and Hicks’ body would have obscured his angle.

An official came from the middle of the field toward the play and looked at the field judge for an indication. After a moment of hesitation, the official who had run in closer to the play signaled a touchdown. The jumbo screen at the other end of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium soon indicated a slight change of direction of the ball as it bounced on the end zone turf as the diving Hicks extended his arms to cradle it.

Bounce passes are acceptable — in basketball — not in football.

The Pirates players and coaches were also very gracious in their comments about the blown call.

“They’re good guys and they try their best,” Coach John Thompson said of the officials. “It’s just part of the game. It’s a shame. You have to overcome it and keep fighting.”

Pirates linebacker Chris Moore was on the field, battling for a storybook ending after ECU had trailed 21-0 earlier in the game.

“Yeah, I saw it,” Moore said. “I mean it hit the ground but the referee called it a touchdown. You’ve got to keep on playing. Ain’t nothing you can do about that.”

To the Pirates credit, they answered the adversity of the missed call with a touchdown by versatile Vonta Leach, who moved from fullback to tailback after Marvin Townes went out with bruised ribs. Cameron Broadwell’s ensuing conversion kick was tipped, hit the left upright and bounded away to end the game.

That guy again

Dan Blum, the referee for the South Florida game — the white hat — on Saturday, has been to ECU before.

Art Baker, who coached ECU from 1985 to 1988, remembers him.

Blum was assaulted and the culprit was arrested after Blum incorrectly made a game-deciding call when the Pirates were playing Southern Miss in Greenville during Baker’s tenure.

Baker said, “We got an apology the following Monday but it was still a loss that went on my record.”

Blum ruled an illegal forward pass on a play that resulted in Southern Miss kicking a game-winning field goal, apparently with no time left.
Baker said it was the 1988 ECU-Southern Miss game.

Blum, reached at his home in Lafayette, La., on Sunday night referred to it as “the infamous 1986 game.”

Maybe he’s wrong about that, too. Efforts to nail down which year were unsuccessful on Sunday night.

Asked if the issue of returning to call games in Greenville had ever come up, Blum said, “No.”

Asked if the endzone “catch” Saturday in the second overtime had been reviewed by the officials in a postgame discussion, Blum said, “No comment. The league office will have to comment on that.”

Blum, by the way, was the referee when ECU lost at North Carolina 24-21 in 2001. The Pirates had two touchdowns nullified by holding calls in that game with the Tar Heels. Coincidently, Gerald Austin, C-USA’s coordinator of football officials, was inducted into the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in Chapel Hill this weekend.
Austin lives in the Triad area.

It seems like, given Blum’s history, he should be assigned games other than those involving ECU and especially other than those in Greenville.

One problem with being 1-9 is that the league office is probably sending its best officiating crews elsewhere.

ECU officials should send tape and a report on Saturday’s game through the proper channels. There were enough questionable calls to merit the attention of C-USA administrators. It won’t change the outcome but officials are accountable. It might get better officials to Greenville in the future or help the ones who were there to become aware of some areas they need to be aware of and improve on.

One more thought — should it be possible for college officials to view a replay on the scoreboard jumbo screen when they are available? Their intent is supposed to be to get the call right and that would simply be a tool to help them do so. They didn’t get it right on Saturday in the second overtime and it was costly for an ECU team that played its heart out for 3 1/2 hours.

Solid effort

It was impressive to see how hard and well ECU played at homecoming.

The Pirates had a 22-11 command in first downs and led 362-243 in total yardage.

“Our offense whipped their defense,” Moore said. “Our defense whipped their offense. We outplayed them. We just came up a point short.”

Carolinas football pecking order

Here’s how the Division I-A football programs in the Carolinas stack up through games of Nov. 8:


  1. N.C. State (7-3, 4-2 ACC) ... Idle on Saturday, the Wolfpack prepares for a trip to Florida State.

  2. Clemson (6-4, 4-3 ACC) ... Tigers stun Florida State 26-10 in Death Valley.

  3. Wake Forest (5-5, 3-4 ACC) ... Deacons’ special teams mistakes lead to 42-34 loss at UNC.

  4. South Carolina (5-5, 2-5 SEC) ... Gamecocks fall to Arkansas, face Florida next.

  5. Duke (3-7, 1-5 ACC) ... Blue Devils raise (Ted) Roof with stunning upset of Georgia Tech.

  6. North Carolina (2-8, 1-5 ACC) ... Tar Heels end a 10-game losing streak at home.

  7. East Carolina (1-9, 1-5 C-USA) ... Pirates dealt a 38-37 double-overtime loss by officials, South Florida.

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02/23/2007 12:41:19 AM

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