AAC admits refs’ game-changing mistake cost ECU

Even though the American Athletic Conference has acknowledged that officials made a mistake during Tulsa's final drive on Saturday, the outcome — a 34-30 ECU loss — won't be changed

ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers crouches in dejection as Tulsa players celebrate a controversial 34-30 win on Friday (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)

East Carolina lost a 34-30 decision at Tulsa on Friday. But according to the American Athletic Conference, it shouldn’t have.

The league issued a statement Saturday acknowledging an officiating error that took place on the Golden Hurricane’s final drive. It was one of two controversial calls on the drive that allowed Tulsa to retain possession and eventually score the winning touchdown with 29 seconds remaining.

Here’s the statement:

“The American Athletic Conference has acknowledged an officiating error that occurred in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 30 East Carolina-Tulsa football game.

“With 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, a Tulsa ball carrier was ruled by the on-field officials to have fumbled, with the ensuing recovery by East Carolina. After further review of the play by the replay official, the ruling on the field was reversed; the replay official determined that the ball carrier had regained possession and was down, prior to East Carolina’s ultimately recovering the ball.

“After reviewing the video of the play, the Conference has determined that the judgment of the replay official was incorrect. The ball carrier did not regain possession of the ball, and the ruling on the field awarding the ball to East Carolina should not have been reversed.

“The American Athletic Conference has conducted a review of the game and has communicated its findings to East Carolina and Tulsa.”

Even though the AAC acknowedged that the Pirates should have been awarded the ball, a turnover that would have allowed it to run out the clock, the official outcome of the game will not be changed.

ECU is now 1-4 on the season, with an asterisk on one of the losses.

“I just don’t understand it. I don’t know what to say to my kids,” Pirates coach Mike Houston said after the game. “We can send the calls (to the league office) but you can’t get the win back. I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life.”

Officials also missed a fourth down pass that was ruled complete, even though replays showed the ball skipped off the turf into the receiver’s hands. The AAC did not address that call.