Big Sky admits to officiating error

A year ago, an officiating error cost the Northern Colorado football team the chance to avoid a winless season in its final game.

On Saturday, another officiating error helped the Bears beat North Dakota in the final game for both teams.

The Big Sky Conference acknowledged Monday that officials failed to call a penalty near the end of Northern Colorado's 28-27 victory.

Northern Colorado had 12 men on defense when it stopped North Dakota on a 4th- and-1 play from the Bears' 34-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. A 5-yard penalty would have given North Dakota a first down. Instead, the Bears took over possession and ran out the clock.

Both teams finished with 5-6 records.

"We have to take accountability in these kinds of situations," Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said. "This is a major downgrade for every individual on the crew. As we've stated in the past, we don't normally comment about officiating, but when a mistake occurs in the administration of the rules, we must take responsibility for the error. We are apologetic when these mistakes happen."

Last year, Northern Colorado finished with an 0-11 record after a penalty was called incorrectly in the final seconds of its last game.

The Big Sky Conference acknowledged three days later that Northern Colorado was erroneously penalized for an illegal block against Portland State. The penalty negated a 25-yard touchdown pass that would have tied the game and given the Bears the opportunity to take the lead with a successful extra point.

A final pass was then deflected, preserving Portland State's 23-17 lead.