Did ABC’s mistake bleed into print media reporting of ND-FSU game?

By on October 21, 2014

No corrections from NYTs, USA Today, New York Post

It’s unfair to criticize New York Times reporter Tom Spousta for a pair of minor errors in his coverage of Notre Dame-Florida State game Saturday.ND GAME

Deadline reporting – especially prime-time sports coverage that extends well after midnight – can wrinkle even the toughest exterior.

And to its credit, the NYTs adjusted Spousta’s online story on Sunday and Monday. It fixed a spelling error and clarified a negligible field-position detail related to a controversial offensive pass interference penalty that erased Notre Dame’s thrilling, game-winning TD in the final seconds.

No harm. Correction done. Story fixed.

But not so fast.

Spousta’s story contains a major error which also appeared in Paul Myerberg’s USA Today story.

The error misstated the play of the game:  an offensive pass interference call in the end-zone that negated a TD catch by Notre Dame’s Corey Robinson.

Stranger still, New York Post writer Zach Braziller, whose story posted Sunday about 12 hours after game, again mistakenly charged a game-changing penalty on Notre Dame player C.J. Prosise, No. 20.

All three newspapers misidentified No. 20 despite referee David Epperley’s public-address declaration that charged No. 7, William Fuller, with offensive interference.


So how did all those reporters state the penalty on the wrong guy?

Both NYTs and Post’s stories included post-game quotes of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly disputing the penalty. Kelly also believed officials flagged   No. 20.

Kelly, who clearly couldn’t hear the ref’s announcement during the game due to crowd noise, only learned late Sunday afternoon he’d been misled as well.

“Actually I have less clarity,” Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. “I guess it was actually called on Will Fuller, not C.J. (Prosise). So [it] just adds more uncertainty as to the final play.”

It gets even crazier. The New York Post story lambasted Kelly’s post-game comment that he’s  “still miffed by call” against Prosise, who, again for clarification was NOT  penalized.

The Post editorialized that the penalty (never called against Prosise) was “correct” and “blatant offensive pass interference.”

It’s past noon on  Tuesday: Still no correction  from NYTs, USA Today, or NY Post.

Not surprisingly,  misinformed debates have raged since Sunday on social media.

Facebook, Twitter, and news websites continue to pulse passionately about the penalty that never was (called on No. 20).

A New York writer who covered the game told me all reporters were told the penalty was called on Prosise. It’s likely an FSU information snafu passed bad info  to press box reporters.

OK, but why no corrections?

And how did FSU screw up the most important, pivotal story element?

FSU’s sports information director Elliot Finebloom explained in an e-mail Tuesday morning that he was on the field during the play and is checking how the mistake may have occurred.

But I’m wondering whether a  TV broadcaster is behind this ball of confusion.

ABC/ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit arbitrarily decided referee David Epperley actually meant No. 20 just seconds after the official announced he’d flagged “Number 7.”

Herby proclaimed Prosise (No. 20) was “blocking.”

Herby described the (invented) ref’s decision to make a rarely called, obscure, off-the-ball, game-changing call as “brave.”

After the disputed penalty call, Herbstreit stated the ND player (No. 20, who incidentally was not called for a penalty) should have known to put his “hands in the air” to avoid the penalty (that he was never flagged for).

Upset Notre Dame fans may however find  Herbstreit’s  remark  aprepos in light of  Coach Kelly’s  claim that referees stole ND’s victory.

After all, robberies depicted on TV often start with the phrase: “Hands in the air!”

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455

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