The Big Ten said Monday that officials mistakenly awarded a touchdown to Stanford in the Cardinal's 41-41 tie with Northwestern, but the error won't change the outcome of the game.
It was the third time in a year that the conference acknowledged that mistakes by Big Ten officials altered the result of a football game."We don't have an instant replay or access to go upstairs and look at a monitor and reconsider the call," David Parry, the league's supervisor of officials, said from his Michigan City, Ind., home. "There is not much to do but live with the judgment."
On Saturday, Stanford's Mike Mitchell fumbled as he was about to cross the goal line, and Northwestern recovered the ball in the end zone for an apparent touchback. But officials conferred and decided Mitchell had crossed the goal line before losing the ball.
After reviewing ESPN replays, however, the conference said Monday that "game officials were not in position to see Mike Mitchell's fumble between the 2- and 1-yard lines." The league said that resulted in "an obvious error in judgment" and "the Wildcats should have been awarded possession."
The Big Ten said decisions of game officials are final, but "when obvious errors of judgment or rules application have a significant affect on the outcome of the game, the conference believes public acknowledgement of the error is appropriate."
Parry said the officials might eventually be disciplined, but the league wouldn't make such action public.
"The officials are rated and graded, and records are kept. I can assure you of that," he said.
On two occasions last year, Illinois lost because of bad calls.
In Arizona's 16-14 win on Sept. 18, two Illini fumbles that were picked up and run back for touchdowns should have been ruled dead at the points of recovery.
Illinois lost to Oregon 13-7 the following week, but the Big Ten said officials should have let stand linebacker Simeon Rice's TD after he stripped the ball from a Ducks' running back. Instead, they ruled the Oregon player's forward progress had been stopped.
Illinois got an apology in both cases, but the losses were not reversed.