01/11/10 — Officiating needs an overhaul on all levels

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Officiating needs an overhaul on all levels

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 11, 2010 11:07 AM

Good 'ole grandma used to say "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." Boy, was she right.

The adage rings true in every aspect of life -- moreso in sports that anything else these days.

Players get criticized.

Coaches are questioned for every play-call they make.

Administrators take the rap for the players' and coaches' judgments on and off the field or court.

Don't dare query an official, though. For some reason, the men and women in stripes seem to think they don't fall in the above-mentioned categories.

Oh, but they do even if they feel they don't. They're human and make mistakes just like players, coaches and administrators. The only problem is they don't like to admit their faults or have it brought to their attention.

A good friend told me several years ago that officiating is a difficult job. I can't agree with him more, however, there are times when I wonder if the profession doesn't need an extreme makeover.

This same friend -- who is an official -- also said that lower-tier leagues and divisions in most collegiate and professional sports are used as "training grounds" to evaluate officials. The good ones are rewarded and usually have what it takes to succeed on the big stage. My friend worked Division III games for nearly a decade, spent several seasons in Division II and advanced to the Division I level just a few years ago.

Our discussion covered many topics during a lengthy phone conversation, but two subjects -- mechanics and speed -- took up most of our time. Officials have gotten sloppy in their mechanics and have poor game management skills when they step between the lines, particularly in two sports -- football and basketball.

The speed, and athleticism, has definitely changed the realm of officiating in football and basketball. It's obvious that the game has passed some officials by. Others, for some reason, haven't discovered it's time to hang up the whistle.

I consistently see officials out of position and making calls that didn't occur in their area of the court or field, and sometimes it's because they can't keep up with the play. I've seen blatant fouls, holding penalties and other infractions take place two feet in front of an official, but yet the person "off the ball" is the one who throws the flag or calls the foul.


My friend, honestly, couldn't offer a definitive explanation.

He admitted he has seen calls made that didn't make sense, and questioned his co-workers either between quarters or at halftime. Not surprisingly, he said the reasoning resembled "working around your elbow to get back to your thumb."

In other words, he got the message "don't question me."

That seems to be the mantra when some officials step between the lines these days. Coaches are going to bark from the sidelines or bench. Players are going to beg for the foul or penalty not to be called. "Clean" guestures such as "holding" or "foul" are going to be seen from the sidelines.

You want an explanation?

Don't hold your breath.

And those officials who comment back toward the crowd? That's a definite "no-no" according to my good friend. The banter is considered unprofessional and certainly ruins the official's credibility. Plus, it shows that the official truly isn't concentrating 100 percent on their job.

My friend agreed with my grandmother.

But he provided his own interpretation: "Take the heat or get out of the profession."