Tom Higgins took to the Canadian Football League's website Tuesday to clarify a few things.
Higgins, the director of officiating, offered somewhat of an apology to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their fans following his comments after the Bombers loss to the Montreal Alouettes Sept. 30. In that game, the Bombers couldn't take advantage of a controversial pass interference call on Greg Laybourn late in the fourth quarter, a ruling that resulted in the Winnipeg getting the ball on the Montreal one-yard line with eight seconds to go.
Winnipeg failed to score, however, and the Alouettes won the game 32-26.
Days later, Higgins made some ill-advised remarks about the outcome of the contest. "It could have been a lot worse," he told the Montreal Gazette. "There are football gods out there. The ball shouldn’t have been on the one-yard line. One play could have turned the game around.
But justice prevailed in this case."
Now, after firing side judge Rick Berezowski (the official who made the pass interference call) and after receiving an expected backlash from the fans draped in Blue and Gold, Higgins has come clean on the CFL website. Here's what he had to say Tuesday:
"I’ll start with throwing a flag – at myself. Some fans wrote to me in protest of some comments I made in the media following the Winnipeg vs. Montreal game of Sept. 30. I appreciate your comments and having the opportunity to respond. I’ve called some of you personally, but I’d like you all to know three things:
"1. The language I used in some interviews was inappropriate. It was unnecessarily colourful and clearly left the wrong impression with some fans. I apologize for that.
"2. The point I was trying to make remains a valid one," Higgins continued. "We take our role as officials very seriously, and while we know some mistakes are inevitable, we never want an error of ours in any game to decide the outcome of a game.
"3. A controversial pass interference play on the third-to-last play of that game had nothing to do whatsoever with how the last two plays of the game were officiated. The Bombers did not score on either of those plays — both short yardage attempts near the goal line. The clock was operated properly on each, and the whistle was blown at the appropriate time on each. Those plays were very well officiated.
As our on-field officials will tell you, excellent officiating is not just correct, fair and impartial – it’s also dispassionate. But when speaking to reporters, I let my passion for our game and how we officiate it get the best of my emotions. As a result I made a reference to the "football gods" that I shouldn’t have made."