Tennessee Stat Book
NASHVILLE - By the book, Thursday night's Music City Bowl officials got all the controversial calls at the end of regulation right, national coordinator of officials David Parry said Friday.
The book, however, may be reworked as soon as February when the NCAA rules committee convenes for its annual meetings. The illegal substitution penalty that ultimately aided North Carolina and crushed Tennessee in the waning moments of regulation in the Tar Heels' 30-27, double-overtime win at LP Field likely will be a hot topic and could provide potential grounds for the NCAA to take a page out of the NFL's rulebook, Parry said.
"That play will be shown and discussed," Parry, a former Big Ten official, said in a phone interview with the News Sentinel.
"It seems a little awkward that a team can commit a foul and really they gained an advantage."
Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates would not have spiked the ball in time if he waited for a mixture of extra offensive players and special teamers to get off the field in the frantic moments following Shaun Draughn's 7-yard run, which left 13 seconds on the clock. He ignored the flurry of players, including a kicker and holder positioned behind him, and downed the ball with one second to spare, prompting a 5-yard penalty for illegal substitution but not signaling the end of the game.
In the NFL, 10 seconds are run off the clock when the offense commits a penalty in the game's final two minutes as a means to prevent teams from doing what North Carolina did Thursday: gain an extra timeout by stopping the clock with its own infraction.
The college game, as Tar Heels coach Butch Davis said Thursday, has a number of different rules than the NFL, and that just so happened to be one of them.
"The play, as it was officiated, was officiated correctly," Parry said.
That play, of course, required a second look.
Referee Dennis Lipski, the head official of the Big Ten crew selected for the game, originally announced the game was over because the clock initially hit zero after Yates' spike. A replay booth review, which Lipski announced would be undertaken after UT players and coaches had already streamed onto the field, correctly concluded that one second remained when the ball hit the ground, allowing the Tar Heels to run one more play.
According to Section 1, Article 3B in the 2009-10 NCAA book of rules and interpretations, the game is ended and the score is final when the referee so declares.
Lipski's words, Parry said, weren't an end-all, be-all declaration. It was nothing more than lip service.
"Just the fact that he waves his arm and the game is over usually means the game is over," Parry said. "But there can be extenuating circumstances usually that come through replay that can correct that."
Determining whether North Carolina committed an illegal substitution penalty, which merits a 5-yard loss, or an illegal participation penalty, which sets the guilty team 15 yards back from the previous line of scrimmage, also was properly officiated, Parry said.
The difference between the two penalties centers on if the extra players were attempting to leave the field rather than actually participating in the play, Parry said.
When UT had 13 players on the field in the final moments of its equally heartbreaking loss at LSU in October, it was flagged for illegal participation.
Much like after the LSU game, UT coach Derek Dooley expressed disappointment over his defense not receiving ample time to respond to the offense's substitutions.
"When they ran guys on the field, the field-goal unit, the rule states that the umpire should step over the ball and allow a substitution to happen," Dooley said. "I don't know. I guess there wasn't enough time to do that."
Dooley said UT did not plan to respond with substitutes because "we had our call ready. We were ready to play."
Parry said that an umpire will typically move away from the ball if the center is ready to snap and the defense indicates it's not going to adjust its on-field personnel.
In an e-mail, Big Ten Assistant Commissioner of Communications Scott Chipman said the conference "does not comment on judgment calls," which has been standard protocol for it over the years.
"What I saw," Parry said, "was done correctly."