How a Video Replay Employee Became the Most Powerful Man in American Finance

January 11, 2011

Last night, the esteemed gambling community of America (and exciting parts of Canada) wagered billions of dollars on the BCS National Championship game between the Auburn Tigers and Oregon Ducks. With a three-point spread and tie game late in the fourth quarter, everybody wondered who was going to break things open and affect millions of financial lives. Shockingly, it ended up being an elderly man in the video replay booth.

With 10 seconds remaining in the game, Auburn and Oregon were tied 19-19 when Tigers running back Michael Dyer burst through an open hole for a long touchdown run. A 26-19 win (assuming they hit the extra point) would have successfully covered the three-point spread for Auburn.

However, officials thought Dyer’s knee might have touched the ground on the one-yard line so they put the play under review and sent it upstairs the video booth. That’s where things got interesting.

After a brief, momentum-killing break to let some people who have never actually play the game of football determine if he was down, the referee announced that the touchdown would be called back. Auburn subsequently sent their field goal unit onto the field to kick a three-point score that cemented a 22-19 win.

Here’s the aftermath:

With a three point victory, Auburn and Oregon “pushed the spread,” meaning that Las Vegas had to refund every single bet made on the game. If the touchdown wasn’t overturned, sportsbooks would have been able to keep the vig (a standard 10 percent fee they take off of every winning bet) as well as the losing money from Oregon backers.

It’s unclear what the exact financial toll was, but given how much money is usually wagered on this type of event, it’s likely that at least $1 billion was bet on the game.

If this were 50 years ago, the video replay judge would be hanging out at the bottom of Tempe Town Lake in a snazzy new pair of cement shoes.

Photo: Bill Carollo/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images