A suspension of replay officials, a change in Mountain West Conference policy and allegations that Brigham Young players routinely make racial slurs during athletic events. It has been 11 days since San Diego State and BYU played in Provo, but the controversy surrounding a botched call continues to swirl.
It started with a simple off-tackle run by the Cougars' JJ Di Luigi. He fumbled, but the line judge incorrectly ruled Di Luigi down (replay available here). Aztec coach Brady Hoke challenged the call, but officials in the replay booth failed to overturn the line judge's ruling.
The three officials in the booth — Mike Angelis, the head replay official, Chad Bunn, the replay communicator and Rob Moon, the replay technician — were suspended for one game by the Mountain West.
Then things got interesting — and ugly.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Bunn was employed by BYU, leading U-T columnist Nick Canepa to ask the obvious: "Why the hell was a guy on BYU's payroll allowed anywhere near that booth, let alone involved in a critical decision?"
Mountain West athletic directors, facing a tsunami of criticism, decided last Friday to ban school employees or alumni from working for the league as a replay communicator. The rule was already in force for the head replay official.
The replay technician, who helps run the replay booth software, still has no such restrictions, in part because that position was not deemed to have an impact on replay decisions. That might change. The Union-Tribune reported Monday that Moon is a BYU graduate who lives in Provo.
In the midst of the controversy came a racism charge by San Diego sports radio talk show host Chris Ello, who is an analyst on Aztec broadcasts. Last Thursday, during an angry on-air rant on XTRA Sports 1360, Ello said that San Diego State players have told him that BYU players make racial comments and that "BYU is the dirtiest, slimiest, most ill-behaved football team that they play every single year."
Ello, an San Diego State graduate, wasn't finished. He added that BYU "is nothing but a front for utter hypocrisy."
By Friday, Ello was on the air again, this time issuing an apology on KSL Newsradio in Utah for "the things I said, or in the way that they were said."
Ello told the Union-Tribune he didn't mean to offend anybody, then added: "In a lot of ways I don't go back on what I said necessarily. I wish I could have edited it down to make it more clear I was talking about this instance. I feel bad a lot of people are upset about it."
But they haven't been forgiving in Utah. Cougar athletic director Tom Holmoe said of Ello: "What he said is uncalled for. But that's San Diego State's issue, and the radio station's issue. If I went and tried to clean up everything untrue that was said about BYU, I would be at it a long time."
Holmoe then dug deep into the vault, voicing his displeasure about a blog post on XTRA's site by Ello from 18 months ago. Ello, who is white, compared Provo to Birmingham, Ala., in the 1960s and said he feared for his well-behing while walking down the town's streets.
"I believe that we have done a lot of good, and we have a lot of people that have come to us, and said how great the experience has been to be at BYU," Holmoe said. "Call and ask Florida State, if you want to talk about how people are treated by BYU. We try to have our actions speak for themselves."