SIOUX CITY | Driving home from a collegiate basketball game on Saturday, my wife, Jill, and I tuned in as John Walters and Eric Heft called the Iowa State vs. Kansas State football game.
Long about Altoona, we listened as the Big XII officiating crew led by Reggie Smith waved off a penalty that had been called on Kansas State for a hit to the helmet against Iowa State's defenseless quarterback, Kyle Kempt, who was sliding at the end of a run late in the fourth quarter.
Walters said it marked the second Wildcats infraction officials waved off.
The third would come about the time we approached Interstate 35. Cyclone wide receiver Allen Lazard reached for a pass while being partially hugged by a Kansas State defensive back who had his back to the ball as he made contact with Lazard.
A flag was thrown. Walters and Heft rejoiced, thinking the penalty and its subsequent first down would all but cement an historic league victory for the Cyclones.
And then Smith gathered this crew for a huddle. Walters grew uneasy, warning the officials to enforce the penalty. The longer they talked, the more restless Walters' voice grew.
Smith turned on his microphone and delivered his decision: There was no penalty. He would not discuss the call in post-game remarks.
Instead, the Cyclones punted and, as you know, the Wildcats marched down the field and scored on the game's final play, pulling out a dramatic -- I'd say "suspicious" -- 20-19 victory in the final home game for Coach Bill Snyder at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"Suspicious," you ask? Well, anytime a team is flagged three times and sees all three flags picked up during the final home game for a beloved 78-year-old coach, well, yes, then "suspicious" is an adjective I'll call upon.
Here's another adjective: "Normal."
It's become "normal" for Iowa State's teams to find themselves on the short side of key calls that help determine losses. I'm told a portion of a wall in one of the buildings serving the Iowa State Athletic Department has a display in which letters of apology from the Big XII are tacked.
Here's a look at what "normal" has looked like for Iowa State fans in years past:
In 2016, Georges Niang, Iowa State's all-everything center, was effectively taken out of a Sweet 16 game against No. 1-seed Virginia, the result of two illegal-screen calls made 20-some feet from the basket. The screens were absurd because they took place so far from the basket, because scant few are ever called, and because Georges Niang was likely the best player in the tournament that year.
In February 2013, the Big XII office issued a formal acknowledgement of officiating mistakes at the end of regulation in a basketball game won by Kansas over the Cyclones.
Later in 2013, the NCAA initiated a new rule after Ohio State's Aaron Craft slid to take a charge, the key play -- and a blown call -- in the Buckeyes' 78-75 victory over Iowa State in the NCAA men's basketball tourney.
In the year 2000, Iowa State likely had the best men's basketball team in the country, but couldn't defeat the NCAA Tournament Committee, which allowed a 7-loss team, Michigan State, to play for a Final Four berth in its home state, at Auburn Hills, Michigan. The committee sent Iowa State, winners of the Big XII regular season and conference tournament, to Michigan to play the Spartans, even though Coach Larry Eustachy's team had just four losses.
As if the favorable location wasn't enough, Coach Tom Izzo's team received officiating breaks in a moving screen called 40 feet from the basket on Cyclone All-American Marcus Fizer. Eighteen seconds later, Cyclone Paul Shirley fouled out on a block/charge call that helped determine the outcome.
That fall, Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace apparently scored a touchdown in the final minute of the Kick-Off Classic against Florida State. Unfortunately -- and incorrectly -- Wallace was ruled out of bounds. The Seminoles won, 38-31.
There was a fumble by Texas in October 2013, a game-saving play by an Iowa State linebacker that was overturned by the officiating crew, leading to a Longhorn touchdown, a Longhorn victory and a post-game press conference by then-Coach Paul Rhoads that went viral.
In 2014, the Big XII apologized to Iowa State and suspended a replay official for failing to review a Kansas State touchdown that should have been disallowed. The touchdown stood, Kansas State won.
That same season, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard took to the podium to deliver remarks following a 37-20 football loss to Oklahoma State. Pollard was enraged that a TD was awarded to the Cowboys after a video review late in the first half. OSU got the touchdown and the victory.
"We've been on the short end of several controversial calls and it's hard to sit idle..." Pollard said. "Coach Rhoads and I have tried to deal with that internally, and I've tried to do it the right way, but it's no longer fair to put our student-athletes, our coaching staff, and our fans in that position."
Bob Bowlsby, the league commissioner, responded: "Mr. Pollard's public statements called into question the integrity and competence of game officials and the conference's officiating program. To insinuate that games are called unfairly to negatively impact a program is irresponsible and completely baseless."
The Big XII then piled on by fining Pollard a record $25,000, or, in so many ways, throwing its own flag at the Cyclones. A flag that nobody picked up or waved off. Yes, that call stood.