Duke-Miami, the ACC, and The Dusty Finish

accThe ACC has acknowledged multiple errors in the game officials’ handling of the now-infamous final play of Miami’s 30-27 win at Duke Saturday night, which we now know is a victory for the ‘Canes in name only.

So, why not reverse the decision and give the win, rightful as it would be to do so, to the Blue Devils?

Late last night, I was firmly in the give Duke a W camp. Today, not so much, and it all has to do with The Dusty Finish.

The Dusty Finish, for those fortunate enough to have not wasted immeasurable brain power and memory to professional wrestling trivia, is an homage of sorts to the late Dusty Rhodes, who in addition to being the big babyface star of 1980s Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was also the backstage booker.

Mid-Atlantic was also the home base of operations of legendary NWA World Champ RIc Flair, who as NWA champ also had to defend his world title in territories across the country.

The NWA approach to booking its world champ was to have Flair, as his predecessors Harley Race, Terry Funk and others before him, play the role of heel, so that when he came to town in far-flung locales from Florida to Louisiana to Texas to the Pacific Northwest and then back East, he would face the top local babyface in the main event.

The booking was for Flair to either score a controversial pinfall victory or more likely lose by disqualification, preserving his championship but allowing the local fans to go home happy.

Rhodes, in his dual role as Mid-Atlantic babyface and booker, added a wrinkle to this formula. For the main event of Starrcade ’85, the biggest wrestling event of that year, which featured the first WrestleMania, Rhodes booked himself to face Flair, and instead of winning the match by DQ, to allow Flair to maintain his title while also sending the fans home happy, Rhodes booked the ending to have him score the pinfall and win the world title, only to have the NWA “office” overturn the decision on a technicality days later.

Best of both worlds, right?

Not exactly. The Dusty Finish led to an ugly backlash, as fans started to come to expect that anytime a babyface would win a title match at a house show or on a big TV card, the decision might just end up being reversed at the “office” level days later.

Which gets us back to Duke-Miami. The ACC listed four failures of its officiating crew on the final play last night, any of which could be used as justification for the league to reverse its decision and give Duke the W.

But in so doing, there would be a precedent set. Any controversial play could lead fans to expect a change in result days later.

And relatively speaking, the Duke-Miami issue would be an easy one to resolve, since the issue was on the final play, and if it had been called correctly, the ruling would have been that the play had come to an end once the knee of one of the Miami lateralists touched the ground with all zeroes on the game clock, meaning the game would also have come to an end.

But what about a blatantly mishandled play earlier in a game? A touchdown that upon proper review would no longer be permitted, or a spot on a fourth-down play that would turn the ball over on downs, among many other possible scenarios.

How do you deal with those kinds of controversies once you have set a precedent that you’re willing to overturn decisions on who wins and who loses a game upon a postgame review?

Simply put, you can’t.

What you can do is follow the lead of MLB and the NFL with a central command post set up in the league office where replays are handled in a controlled, centralized setting. The league’s director of officials needs to be in the room to be able to serve as final arbiter on any plays, and especially those that rise to the level of the final play of Duke-Miami, with the focus on just getting it right, for God in heaven’s sake.

None of this nonsense about a review determining that, yup, the game officials got it wrong, yup, the replay guy got it wrong, but sorry for your damn luck, Duke, Duke fans, ACC fans and others on the periphery who just want to see things done fairly, squarely and the like, we’re not going to be able to do anything about it.

Get it right before you need to apologize the next day for having gotten it so, so wrong.

At least wrestling fans were able to go home happy after a Dusty Finish would result in the inevitable rug getting pulled out from under them.

Fans weren’t happy last night, are even less so today with the news from the ACC, and with mere two-game suspensions handed down to the crew responsible for this historic clusterbump sending the message that this really wasn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, you have to assume that we’re going to see more of this from the ACC in the future than less.

– Column by Chris Graham


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