Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

China has been in the news here on our shores for the past week-plus as the NBA grapples with how to support its employees American right to free speech running in contrast with the Chinese government’s authoritarian principles.

Turns out, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has picked up a few things from the Chinese.

Big 12 officials completely botched the ending of the Texas Tech-Baylor game, where the Bears were incorrectly hit with an illegal snap penalty that wiped out a clear Red Raider fumble recovery in overtime of Saturday’s game, allowing Baylor to continue a possession that should have ended. Given new life, Baylor scored a touchdown on the possession and won the game in double overtime.

Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt and head coach Matt Wells were obviously, justifiably upset after the game but held their tongues. On Sunday, Hocutt issued this statement:

“It has been confirmed that the ruling on the field of an illegal snap was incorrect,” Hocutt said. “The play is not reviewable by rule because it is a dead ball judgment call by the official. I am confident that the Big 12 Conference will deal with the matter internally as they complete the review of the game in its entirety.”

On Wednesday, the Big 12 issued this statement in response to Hocutt’s statement:

In accordance with Big 12 Conference sportsmanship policies, the Conference has issued a public reprimand and $25,000 fine of Texas Tech University Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt for his statement in the aftermath of the Red Raider’s double overtime loss at Baylor.
 
“The Big 12 Conference members have developed policies governing the officiating of our contests,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “It is vital that senior administration officials, especially the Directors of Athletics, adhere explicitly to these policies.  It is very difficult to balance support for an institution’s teams while fully complying with the imperative created by schools acting together to manage athletics competition.  On this occasion, the required discipline was not exercised.  Kirby Hocutt is one of the very best athletics administrators in the nation, and I am grateful for his assistance and support in resolving this matter.”

In short, the Big 12 is fining Hocutt for acknowledging the Big 12’s mistake. In their mind, their officials should be able to make a clear, obvious and costly error… and then no one would acknowledge or address it at all, ever. The play would have a proverbial black bag placed over its head and erased from public memory, and anyone who fails to toe that company line will be punished.

Hocutt protested the fine, arguing he was providing a factual clarification and not an officiating complaint, and that his correspondence with Big 12 employees could come out anyway through Freedom of Information Act requests.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.


Update: In what has to be the fastest FOIA request filling in college sports history, Texas Tech has released Hocutt’s correspondence with Big 12 executive associate commissioner for football Ed Stewart regarding the snap and Bowlsby’s email informing Hocutt of his violation of the Big 12’s rule regarding public comments on officiating.

The key passage here is from Stewart, who says:

“The ruling on the field of an Illegal Snap is incorrect. The rule, 2-23 a-h, states that a snap must be made in one quick and continuous motion with the ball leaving the snappers (sic) hand or hands.”

However, that acknowledgment is the only form of concession Texas Tech will get. An illegal snap is not a reviewable play and Big 12 rules prohibit anyone at Texas Tech from commenting on officiating (rules Hocutt broke, according to Bowlsby). Stewart also says in the email the conference office will deal with the officials “internally.”