By now, most of the sports world is familiar with Pat Haden's recent outburst at Stanford this past Saturday. The USC athletic director -- and member of the inaugural College Football Playoff selection committee -- got into the faces of the game's officials after being summoned down to the field from the press box by coach Steve Sarkisian. Haden later apologized for the incident, which was motivated by the visitors receiving penalties totaling 35 yards on three straight plays, including the ejection of the team's star linebacker.
For those of you that have been closely following the Cardinal/Trojan rivalry in recent years, you will recall that the 2011 matchup between the two Pac-12 foes was also marred -- and some believe ultimately decided -- by a matter involving the officials.
With nine seconds to go in a tied game three years ago, then-USC head coach Lane Kiffin asked officials for a timeout to be awarded after the Trojans ran a play. The play, a Robert Woods catch-and-run in which the receiver was not able to get out of bounds, ran the remaining time off the clock. The only problem though was that Woods was down before the final second ticked off, confirmed by official video review. Instead of granting the Trojans the timeout and a shot at a field goal for the win, referee Michael Batlan ordered the game into overtime, which was eventually won by Stanford.
A much-less talked about game this past Saturday around the country involving a Pac-12 officiating crew was the University of Hawai'i home game against Oregon State.
The Beavers would defeat the Rainbow Warriors, 38-30, a game made much closer in the second half, as the home team rallied off 23 straight points in the fourth quarter.
While there is no question the team from Corvallis was more dominant on that night in Aloha Stadium, several questionable calls from the officials stifled the momentum and dampened the spirits of the squad from Manoa, helping the Beavers to take a 31-7 lead into halftime.
The head referee that night? Michael Batlan.
Down 21-0 early, the Rainbow D came to life with a huge TJ Taimatuia INT that set-up Hawaii's first touchdown.
With the pendulum finally swinging toward the home team, it appeared the Rainbow Warriors would get the ball back after a crucial stop on a Beaver third down.
Instead, it wasn't a stop at all. A roughing-the-passer call on UH linebacker Julian Gener extended the drive for OSU, which ended in a field goal for the visitors, putting them up 24-7.
Could that call alone change the final outcome of the game? Likely not. But it went a long way toward reversing the fortunes of a team trying desperately to claw its way back into a contest that started off looking more like a slaughter.
There were also several questionable pass interference calls and dead-ball penalties that could've gone either way in the first half and that helped dig the hole for the Rainbow Warriors. Yet, the aforementioned pass interference call is the one that still has us talking after the game.
Gener did not appear to hit Sean Mannion after the OSU QB released the ball, but Mr. Batlan -- the game's "white hat" -- threw the flag apparently due to the level at which Gener hit Mannion, below the knee.
What Mr. Batlan failed to see, though, was that (a) Gener was engaged with a lineman in his pursuit of the QB the entire sequence, and, (b) upon hitting Mannion, Gener wrapped up, executing a safe and proper tackle.
At the end of the first half, in images caught on the national broadcast, UH head coach Norm Chow lashed out in a tirade against Batlan from the UH sideline all the way to the back of the south end zone, where Batlan was greeted by even more boos from the fans in green.
The job done by Batlan and his crew was in fact pitiful and warranted such a response from the coaches and fans.
Batlan, a native Oregonian and bankruptcy trustee in Portland, has spent seven years as a referee, or head official, for the Pac-12, with decades more of experience in the stripes, yet the decision to have himself and a crew from the opposing team's conference is a dubious one.
UH Media Relations Director Derek Inouchi confirmed to me via email that the use of Pac-12 officials was stated in the contract between the schools and that Mountain West officials were used in last year's matchup at Corvallis.
Clearly for the Rainbow Warriors, there is more that they can do to avoid another loss under Chow's leadership at UH. But when eight of Hawaii's last 11 games have been decided by one score, the last thing the team needs is a referee's blunders.