A pair of officials assigned to work Monday night's College Football Playoff championship game between LSU and Clemson were involved in a controversial episode earlier this season and were "downgraded" as a result of a blown call, according to a San Jose Mercury News report.
Dale Keller and Kevin Kieser, the report says, were part of the group officiating the California-Washington State game in November when Washington State, trailing 20-11 in the third quarter, was flagged for illegal hands to the face on a kickoff return. The penalty was assessed to Washington State, but it was intended to be against California.
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It wasn't until after the next play was run that the officials realized the gaffe. Instead of starting at Cal's 35-yard line after the returned kick and applied penalty yardage, Washington State started at its own 8-yard line.
"The closer I get to the top, the more I think about rock bottom."
"After the next play was run, the referee informed Washington State that there was an error in application of the penalty," the conference said in a statement.
The head referee of that crew, who isn't part of Monday night's officiating team, was suspended for one game. The rest of the crew, including Keller and Kieser, was "downgraded."
Officials are typically graded after each game, and those grades can impact referees' assignments.
Monday night's head referee, Chris Coyte, has also been involved in postseason controversy.
In the Franklin American Mortgage 2017 Music City Bowl, Coyte ejected Kentucky running back Benny Snell.
The Lexington Herald-Leader describes the event like this: After a run play in the second quarter, Snell was on the ground after a tackle. Coyte stood over Snell and appeared to reach down toward him. Snell pushed Coyte's hands away and turned up field. Coyte reached for his flag and called unsportsmanlike conduct on Snell and disqualified him from the game.
@pac12 referee Chris Coyte just made the worst call I’ve ever seen in my lifetime of watching college football.— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) December 29, 2017
In the 2nd qtr of the Music City Bowl, Coyte kicked Kentucky’s best player Benny Snell, Jr. out of the game for refusing Coyte’s help in getting up off of the ground pic.twitter.com/QUYb5iH7PK
The Pac-12 Conference is the only Power 5 league without a team participating in the College Football Playoff.
No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson face off at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans at 7:15 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.