Fifth Down Documentary:

In honor of Thanksgiving Day football, I note an entertaining short documentary on the famous 1940 Dartmouth-Cornell "Fifth Down" game. A charming look at a sportsmanship in different era of college sports (perhaps the most amusing part, however, is that the Cornellians thought that Dartmouth would refuse their offer to forfeit the game). YouTube also has a clip from the 1990 Colorado-Missouri fifth down game which had a somewhat different conclusion. Jeffrey Hart provides a written description of the game here. (HT: Dartlog).

Whaler Fan (www):
I think that teaches us all a little about what it is to be a "Dartmouth Man" :)
11.21.2006 11:45am
It was a different era in may ways. Back when Ivy teams were nationally ranked, and back when the term "student-athlete" wasn't a complete joke as often as it is now. Now we have this sort of thing, and alumni getting upset because academic standards and an unwillingness to compete with other schools for under-the-table athletic scholarships are causing us to lose in the arms race of the meatheads.

It was a different era indeed.
11.21.2006 12:36pm
Bill "Promise Keeper" McCarthy lost all integrity in my mind after that game.
11.21.2006 1:56pm
Chicago Legal Geek:
Am I missing something? It seems like the Missou/Colorado game ended on 4th down. (??)
11.21.2006 3:11pm
Chicago Legal Geek:
Nevermind. :)
11.21.2006 3:17pm
WJ (mail):
Teams still forfeit games, but not because of errors by a referee. A team will forfeit a game if it realizes it has used an illegal player. Teams do not, nor do I think they should, forfeit a game because a referee made an error. That is considered part of the game. And now with instant replay, there definitely is no reason why a team should forfeit a game because a referee made a mistake.

The situation could not repeat itself because even if the error was missed by instant replay, the conference would not allow a school to forfeit a game. A referee also would not publicly admit he was wrong like the referee in the Dartmouth-Cornell game did.
11.21.2006 3:31pm
KeithK (mail):

The situation could not repeat itself because even if the error was missed by instant replay, the conference would not allow a school to forfeit a game. A referee also would not publicly admit he was wrong like the referee in the Dartmouth-Cornell game did.

I can easily see the Ivy League of today allowing one of their teams to forfeit a game if this happened again. Of course, the Ivies are ineligible for postseason play in football (god only knows why) so it wouldn't have the significance that the 1940 game or the Colorado game did.

I can also see a referee admiting his mistake in a case like this though probably not as publically as happened in 1940. It's not like you can argue that this case was a subjective call - there's hard video evidence to show the mistake.
11.21.2006 4:16pm
The referees in the Oklahoma v. Oregon game this year admitted they screwed up. Of course, it's pretty hard not to admit a mistake when it's captured so clearly on video and it stays in the news a few days. Oklahoma's president asked for the game to be stricken from the records of both teams, a request that wasn't supported by the commissioner of the Big XII conference, and wasn't granted by the Pac-10 or NCAA or whoever makes that decision. Now there's some scuttlebutt about Oklahoma not honoring it's contract to play Washington next year if the Pac-10 doesn't change it's officiating policies. The call may cost the Big XII over $10 million if Oklahoma is left out of the BCS games because of it.

I've seen numerous other instances of conferences admitting their officials erred and issuing apologies to the affected school. However, I don't think the mistakes were clearly determinative of the game's outcome, so a forfeit was out of the question.
11.22.2006 10:21am
WJ (mail):
I think it is the conference that admitted the referees made the mistake, not the actual referees themselves. The conferences then will reprimand the referees, but not allow the outcome of any games to be changed. The conferences have rules that do not allow for outcomes to be changed after the teams leave the field or for games to be replayed. The conference therefore gives a school cover when a bad call is made. The problem with saying that one call cost a team a game is that the team that won will always argue that there were many calls during the game that went against them and the outcome should not be reversed after the fact because of one call.

I doubt Oklahoma backs out of the game next year. They would probably have to pay damages to Washington if they did. Also, the game will have national exposure and the broadcasting network (probably ABC) would not like the game to be cancelled either.
11.22.2006 10:35am
Actually the officials in the Missouri-Ok State game (and why do these things keep happening to poor Mizzou) admitted that they blew the holding call that cost Mizzou their game-winning touchdown

I agree though, that with the huge amount of money that BCS bowls provide the conference, it's unlikely we'll ever see the kind of sportsmanship that used to prevail in college athletics.
11.22.2006 10:56am
The all time greatest play has to be The Play in a 1980's Cal-Stanford game - multiple laterals, interference by the trombone section. Fabulous.
11.23.2006 12:41am