The ACC admitted that Miami's 30-27 win over Duke was wrong, because of officiating mistakes made on the final eight-lateral miracle play by the Hurricanes. But the result of the game stands and can't be changed, and Miami isn't about to concede defeat. Everyone just has to accept that mistakes were made and move on.
There is actually one precedent for a changed result, though. Back in November 1940, Cornell voluntarily forfeited after getting an extra down on the decisive play of a game at Dartmouth.
Dartmouth thought it had finished off a season-changing upset. With a 3-4 record, Dartmouth had held undefeated No. 2 Cornell without a point all game on a sloppy field in Hanover, N.H., in front of a crowd of 10,000 fans. When the game was on the line, Dartmouth came up with a goal-line stand, holding Cornell out of the end zone to seal a 3-0 victory. Or so the players thought.
The game had been scoreless most of the way, but Dartmouth kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter to take the lead. In the closing minutes, Cornell finally mounted a drive, getting all the way to the six-yard line. There, Cornell ran down to the three on first down, then ran to the one on second down. The next play proved controversial, Cornell came close to scoring a touchdown but was ruled short by referee Red Friesell. Cornell then tried to call a timeout that it didn't have to substitute a player, resulting in a delay of game penalty, moving the ball back to the six-yard line.
On what should have been fourth down, Walt Scholl rolled out and threw an incomplete pass that was broken up in the end zone. But a confused officiating crew, led by Friesell, gave them another shot. Dartmouth begged and pleaded its case to no avail. This time, Scholl found Bill Murphy in the end zone, giving Cornell the 7-3 victory on a play that never should have happened.
AP reports after the game said that Dartmouth's captain, Lou Young, and other players "insisted that Cornell's scoring play came on a fifth down" and that Young demanded that Cornell be given the ball before the fifth down. Some observers believed that both teams had been offside on the original fourth-down play, which would have correctly resulted in another play. Immediately after the game, Friesell refused to comment, and Dartmouth coach Red Blaik said, "I have every confidence in Referee Friesell."
The result went into the record books as a 7-3 win for Cornell, preserving an undefeated season. Cornell dropped from second to fifth in the AP poll, in part because a 7-3 win over a mediocre Dartmouth was deemed unimpressive.
Debate raged. According to a United Press report, Eastern Intercollegiate Association executive director Asa Bushnell said that the result would be up to the schools but he could not change the score.
"I hope to see pictures of the game, of course, but let me emphasize that they will have no bearing," Bushnell said. "At present I do not know if there was a double offside. The reports should determine that. I repeat, that no matter what the officials' statements disclose, I cannot alter the score."
And then the score was altered.
After game film was examined, Cornell quickly decided to wire a message to Dartmouth saying that it would forfeit the result. Dartmouth accepted, and the game now goes down in history as a 3-0 Dartmouth upset win.
"In view of conclusion reached by officials that touchdown was scored on fifth down, Cornell relinquishes claims to victory and extends congratulations to Dartmouth," wrote Cornell athletic director James Lynah in a telegram to Dartmouth athletic director William H. McCarter.
Friesell, the referee, had admitted his error in a report sent to Bushnell:
"Numerous charts kept by the press and motion pictures taken by both colleges have convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was in error in allowing Cornell possession of the ball for the play on which they scored. I awarded it to them for what actually was an illegal fifth down play -- a play which produced the winning score. This mistake was entirely mine as the game's referee and not shared in or contributed to be any of the other three officials."
CBS produced a short documentary on the game decades later:
In the aftermath, there was a proposal for the teams stage a rematch for charity, but Dartmouth declined, saying that the school did not participate in postseason games.
The next week, Cornell lost again, falling 22-20 at No. 12 Pennsylvania. The Big Red finished 6-2, dropping to 15th in the final AP poll. Dartmouth won its final game against Brown to finish 5-4, and Blaik left to take the head coaching job at Army, where he would become a coaching legend in leading the World War II West Point football dynasty.
After the altering of the result, officials expressed concern that this would set a dangerous precedent, hoping that this would be a one-time thing based on a freak occurrence at the end of the game.
"In any sport such as football, where the game unfolds in a consecutive series of inter-related and interdependent plays, it is manifestly impossible to alter any one of these plays without affecting and perhaps altering every one of them which follow," Bushnell said, according to an AP story a few days after the game. "Thus the Dartmouth-Cornell game provides the one case in a million in which change could be made without establishing a dangerous precedent, for in it the error which proved decisive came on a scoring play which also was the very last play of the final period"
Friesell died in 1974 at age 80. His obituaries referred to him as "Fifth Down Red."
This isn't the only time a fifth down scenario happened, of course, as Colorado beat Missouri 33-31 in 1990 on a fifth-down play. Missouri should have won 31-26, but Colorado held onto the victory, going on to win the AP vote for the national championship.
Circumstances on Saturday in Durham were much different, but the ACC admitted that Miami's touchdown should not have counted because a knee was down and there was an illegal block in the back. Nevertheless, the Miami win stands, as does Duke's first ACC loss as it tries to compete for a division title.
Duke should not be expecting a telegram from Miami anytime soon. In fact, Miami has already spoken:
¯\_(ツ)_/¯— Miami Hurricanes (@MiamiHurricanes) November 1, 2015