Big Sky admits to costly officiating error

A penalty called in the final seconds of Northern Colorado's final game likely cost it the chance to avoid a winless season.

The Big Sky Conference acknowledged Tuesday that a penalty called with 3.6 seconds remaining in Northern Colorado's game against Portland State last Saturday was incorrect.

Northern Colorado was erroneously penalized for an illegal block, which 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 and finishing Northern Colorado's season at 0-11.

Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton said during the film evaluation process it was obvious an incorrect call was made because the player penalized from Northern Colorado was blocked into a Portland State player.

"We absolutely are concerned when this happens, and it is vital that we be able to honestly evaluate ourselves," Fullerton said. "That call was incorrect, and it cost Northern Colorado the tying touchdown. We don't normally speak about officiating, but this mistake came at a critical juncture in the contest and greatly affected the outcome of the game. Unfortunately, there is nothing now that can be done to reverse the call. We are apologetic when these mistakes happen, as they do during the course of any athletic season."