OKLAHOMA CITY — A high school football playoff game taken into court after a disputed penalty erased a late-game touchdown will not be replayed, an Oklahoma district judge ruled on Thursday, saying athletic contests should not be decided by “robed referees.”
Oklahoma District Judge Bernard Jones said there was neither state law nor precedent that would allow him to order the replaying of the November playoff game and doing so would be going down a slippery slope.
“Courts ought not meddle in these activities or others, especially when the parties have agreed to be bound by and have availed themselves to the governance of these activities associations,” Jones wrote.
On Nov. 28, Locust Grove High School defeated Oklahoma City’s Frederick Douglass High School 20-19 in a quarterfinal game where a referees’ decision overturned what would have been a go-ahead touchdown in the final 64 seconds.
A referee threw a flag for a sideline violation on Douglass when it scored a touchdown on a fourth down play.
While many see the penalty as questionable, there was criticism that the referees’ decision to take the touchdown off the board was outright wrong, and a yardage penalty should have been enforced on the point after or the kickoff.
The Oklahoma City Public School District had asked Jones to rule if the game, or the part of the game after the disputed call, should be replayed. The ruling clears the way for Locust Grove to play a semi-final game on Friday against Heritage Hall.
Even if there were precedent, Jones said, there was no way to replay part of a game that would be fair to all involved.
“This slippery slope of solving athletic contests in court instead of on campus will inevitably usher in a new era of robed referees and meritless litigation due to disagreement with or disdain for decisions of gaming officials,” Jones wrote.
Keith Sinor, athletics director for the Oklahoma City district, said in a statement after the ruling that the official admittedly applied the wrong penalty and they hoped to work with the state athletics association to make sure a similar incident does not happen again.