The USC-Utah winner? Don't bet on it
Don't bet on it.
USC won, 17-14 –- and 23-14.
Now, it's not often that one football game ends with two scores, and technically, this game didn't either.
Unless you're a betting man, or woman.
The short story: With time running out, Utah lined up to kick what would have been a game-tying field goal. USC blocked the try. Time expired as a Trojan player picked up the ball and ran it back for a touchdown. His teammates streamed onto the field during the runback. Officials threw penalty flags. The scoreboard read 17-14. Everyone left the stadium.
And that's when the real fun began. As The Times reported:
But two hours after time expired at the Coliseum, the Pacific 12 Conference determined that there had been a miscommunication between field officials and the official scorer in the press box and that USC should have been credited with a game-ending touchdown, making the score 23-14.
Big deal, you say? It was to the betting public. After all, according to The Times story, the "game generated from $50,000 to $100,000 in bets at each of the major sports books in Nevada."
With a final score of 17-14, USC failed to cover the Las Vegas "spread" of 8 1/2 points.
For those who bet on Utah, that's known as "winner winner chicken dinner."
Two hours later, though, the final score was 23-14. USC covered the magic spread. For those who bet on USC, that's known as "my turn."
Which is when some people got a reminder of just how Las Vegas was built, and by whom.
From The Times story:
"Vegas is split on this," said Jay Kornegay, the Las Vegas Hilton's race and sports book director. "It's all up to the house rules, and even how you interpret those rules."
In the Hilton's case, winning bets are determined the day of the event, but bet tickets disclaim the hotel will not recognize overturned scores.
"So, basically, it says both," Kornegay said. "We decided to go with the corrected score."
Over at the MGM, though, it wasn't all so "the customer is always right."
A race and sports book supervisor told The Times late Saturday that MGM Resorts would pay off "winning" USC bets. But that policy was never implemented, said Jay Rood, race and sports book director for MGM Resorts.
"We stuck with the original score of 17-14," Rood said. "Our house rules are we don't recognize overturned games. An overturn is an overturn. This game ended 17-14, the lights went out and everyone went home."
House rules? That doesn't even work with your brother-in-law. So you can imagine what some betters thought of that comment.
Rood, though, wasn't budging:
"I can understand this from the bettors' standpoint, their confusion about the disparity of rules within the industry," Rood said. "You're bound by your house rules. We could've paid off [USC bettors], but what if it happens again next week? We don't want to establish that precedent."
And you thought California's three-strikes law was tough. It's nothing compared with some Vegas sports books' sacred house rules.
The moral of the story?
As they say: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas -– especially when it involves your money.
-- Paul Whitefield
Photo: The Harrah's sports book in Las Vegas. Credit: Harrah's Las Vegas