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Refereeing and the Game

Referees make mistakes, but to put a game’s outcome solely on them is misguided.

Blaming the referees for the outcome of the game is never something fans should do. I hate when I do it myself.

Well, maybe not that much.

But to say that referees do not impact games would be like saying what I eat does not impact my weight. The two will forever be attached at the hip.

While throwing referees under the bus should never be the sole complaint for a loss or situation, their impact can be felt on any given snap and should be included in the overall understanding of a game’s final score line.

Ohio State linebacker Shaun Wade’s (24) hit on Clemson’s quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) led to ejection and a shift in momentum. (

Look at this past season’s College Football Playoffs.

Refereeing decisions caused drastic swings in both the second semifinal (Ohio State vs. Clemson) and the final (Clemson vs. LSU).

In the first instance, the referees made two crucial decisions that swung the game, and arguably the momentum, from Ohio State’s favor to Clemson’s.

The first impact decision came with the Buckeyes up 16-0 and completely suffocating a stacked Clemson squad. A targeting call was called and confirmed on junior Shaun Wade when he rammed into Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence leading to his ejection.

The second, was a supposed strip by the Buckeyes leading to a touchdown to take a lead 22-21 late in the third quarter, which was overturned.

Both led to a vocal outcry by Ohio State faithful.

The controversial catch-fumble-score which was ultimately wiped off the board and left Clemson in the driver’s seat (Yahoo Sports)

Yet to completely blame the referees for that loss, if an Ohio State fan, should be muted to an extent. Yes, both arguably changed momentum, but to not highlight numerous red zone field goals, two dropped touchdown passes, and a game-ending interception one cannot put all the fault on those in stripes.

Targeting reared its ugly head in the playoff final, this time going against Clemson. Ah, karma.

While still competitive a game, Clemson’s star linebacker James Skalski was ejected for targeting. While not the singular turning point of that game, it was a three-point contest and opened the game up for LSU and its lethal offensive attack led by Joe Burrow.

While targeting needs to be reanalyzed within the NCAA offices, the referees called these three plays pretty consistently when looking at the overall body of work. Fans of Clemson and Ohio State can plead but time will allow for them to sit back and analyze what other impact moments occurred before completely ripping and blaming referees.

7 replies on “Refereeing and the Game”

I think that this officiating issue isn’t addressed enough. Although there has been a number of questionable calls throughout the history of sports, we are still relying on humans to make those calls. I think that the increased use of replay will help officials across the board but there is a balance between too little and too much. Overall, fans will boo if the call is against their team and cheer if it is against the other team whether the call is actually correct or not.


Being a referee is probably one of the most difficult jobs when it comes to understanding every rule, allowing players freedom to play, and keeping a level head. Something I always find interesting, similar to what Paige said in a reply is the fact that referees the day after the game. Will release a statement apologizing over a missed call. It seems unnecessary because they cannot replay the game.


Jackson, I agree with the idea that a referee’s decisions impact the game, but an outcome cannot be wholly placed on their rulings. One thing that I find interesting is when a referee organization apologizes to the team following a game to admit fault over a wrong call. Most recently, NFL officiating chief Al Riveron apologized to the Oakland Raiders over a missed call, but stated nothing could be done. Do you think a referee admitting fault should change the outcome of the game after the fact?

-Paige Needham


This was extremely interesting to read! I always find myself trying to blame refs during intense games. They were hired based on their ability to make the right choices so we have to learn to trust that! It was also crazy to read how many games go on where refs leave the fans upset. Great blog!
-Sami Ketchman


Jackson, I really like the topic you chose. I think this is a good analysis of the situation. Officials are human and are just as susceptible to mistakes as anyone else. Unfortunately for them, their errors are played out on a much larger stage. I agree that the targeting rules need to be completely reevaluated and potentially overhauled during the offseason.



I think this is a refreshing take on fans who overreact to missed or bad calls. They are bound to happen, everyone is human. Outside of a missed or bad call on the final play of a game, there are so many other factors that play a role in the outcome of the game. Very rarely does one call made by an official truly determine the outcome of a game. The Fiesta Bowl was an excellent example of this. While I believe that Jeff Okudah did force a fumble, that play was not the winning play nor was it the losing play.


Hey Jackson,

You picked a great topic first of all! In think in the examples of targeting, the refs deserve a ton of leeway. They are being asked to interpret something that happens so fast and enforce a rule that has so much gray area. The players in this instance don’t have it much better; they’re taught forever to play as hard and fast as possible, then are expected to pull up at the vital moment? It’s a tough rule all the way around with great intent. There’s also the interruption to the gameflow that these reviews make, and college games are way too long as it is.

–Ryan Lacey


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