Pac-12 suspends official who blew WSU call

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PULLMAN — Washington State football Mike Leach declined to comment on the officiating mistake that cost his team 57 yards and resulted in a one-week suspension of an official.

In fact, he said Pac-12 officials should get a big raise.

“I’ve always thought, pay the officials double,” he said at his weekly news conference Monday. “Because, really if you think about paying a whole bunch of officials double, that equals two blocking sleds, right? I mean, we can all afford that.”

The subject came up after the Pac-12 had acknowledged a significant blunder in the third quarter of the Cougars’ 33-20 loss Saturday at California. Travell Harris of WSU returned a kickoff to the 50-yard line, but officials called back the play because of a personal foul for hands to the face by the Cougars’ Armauni Archie.

The perpetrator was actually Ben Moos of Cal, who wears the same No. 15 jersey number as Archie. Coincidentally, Moos is the son of former WSU football player and athletic director Bill Moos.

“The conference confirmed the penalty for hands to the face was correct,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. “However, the mechanics and communication were incorrect in assessing the penalty to Washington State instead of California.”

The error resulted in a 57-yard swing. The ball should have been spotted at the California 35-yard line and was instead placed at the Cougars 8.

The conference placed the game’s referee on a one-game suspension and “downgraded” the other members of the officiating crew.

The Cougars, who trailed by nine points at the time of the mistake, then drove 78 yards for a field goal to make it 20-14. But they drew no closer than that in absorbing their fifth loss in six games.

Washington State (4-5, 1-5) now plays its first home game in nearly a month, facing Stanford (4-5, 3-4) at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Martin Stadium. The Cougars are favored by 10˝ points.

The school also learned its home game Nov. 23 against Oregon State will start at 6 p.m. The Pac-12 Network will broadcast both the Stanford and OSU contests.

Leach, as he has done numerous times in recent years, carefully avoided criticizing the officials, alluding to heavy fines he’s been assessed for such remarks in the distant past.

But a discrepancy did come up. The Pac-12 had said in its statement, “After the next play was run, the referee informed Washington State that there was an error in application of the penalty.”

Leach, using a gesture with his arms rather than words, suggested a significantly larger span of time had passed before he was informed.

His recommendation to double the salaries of officials came in response to a question on how officiating in the Pac-12 might be improved in general.

“So then you get the best and the brighest, and carefully evaluate (them), then fire the bottom 20 percent each year,” Leach said. “Then hire the best and the brightest from other conferences, since you’re paying double. I think that would be pennies on the dollar, money well spent.”

He also suggested making officials available at postgame news conferences, so that coaches aren’t asked to address officiating issues.

“You need some level of accountability,” he said.

As for the Cougars’ performance, Leach reiterated pointed remarks he’d made after the game, saying his team has yet to replace the leadership provided by certain seniors on last year’s 11-2 team.

“Anytime any one of these guys thinks they’re a leader, they fall on their face,” he said, “or they’re a fat dumb happy guy that has a certain amount of self-satisfaction. We’re very delicate mentally, as far as getting really happy with some previous play or some previous game or some previous series. We want to get happy and cruise. Right now we’ve got a bunch of cruisers around here.”

Grummert may be reached at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2268.

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