Replay Fiasco Forces Policy Change, Feeds Controversy

In a policy change that continues to reverberate around the country, the Mountain West Conference has banned school employees and alumni from replay booth positions when their school is playing. When announcing the change to "existing protocols," MWC officials said the ban previously applied to the head replay official only, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, not the other two replay staffers. Now, it applies to the replay official and the replay communicator, meaning that the replay technician can still be a school employee or alum. The conference assigns and pays for all three positions.

The move comes after a botched call originating from the replay booth during the third quarter of the Oct. 9 game between BYU and San Diego State at LeVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. BYU running back J.J. Di Luigi appeared to fumble, but officials on the field ruled him down before losing the ball. When SDSU coach Brady Hoke asked for a review, officials in the booth ruled there was not enough evidence to rule a fumble on the play, and BYU scored five plays later en route to a 24-21 victory.

In the aftermath of what Provo's Daily Herald is calling "fumble-gate," BYU employee Chad Bunn and the two other replay officials were suspended for a game, and Bunn - who was the replay communicator on Oct. 9, not the head replay official who made the ruling - has reportedly lost his job with the MWC. Then, SDSU radio color commentator Chris Ello, during a recent XtraSports show on 1360-AM, called Brigham Young University an institution "without honor" and claimed that BYU players and fans are racist. He later apologized for most of his tirade.

BYU officials have referred all questions about the replay incident to the MWC, but Dick Harmon, a sports columnist for Utah's Deseret News this week claimed that Bunn - who worked as a video coordinator for BYU for 21 years - "got hung out to dry" and that the "mysterious public slaughter of Bunn … was unwarranted." He cited the conference's policy of not identifying game officials who are disciplined and not announcing publicly any action taken against them in course of their duties, then accused SDSU's Hoke of doing just that. But Hoke says his informant was someone at the MWC, who obviously broke league protocol.

At this point, plenty of fingers appear to still be pointing, with no single media story emerging as the definitive report of what happened both in that replay booth and in the days following the incident. Adding fuel to the fire are several sources who told The Tribune that many MWC schools have employees in the replay booth, and most have alums working there, too. This may not be the last we hear about this fiasco.

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