By KEITH PEEL
With all the news lately about poor quality officiating in the NCAA Tournament and the culmination of poor officiating occurring in the UK-North Carolina game, it seems strange to me that referees are not held to the same standard of accountability as the players and coaches.
You’ve seen the postgame press conferences with players and coaches. After a very difficult loss players are asked why they attempted to make a certain play that failed, what were they thinking when this play happened or that play was not executed correctly. Coaches have to explain why they used a certain defense, did not play a certain player or did or did not call a time out at a critical point in the game.
These are 18 to 22 year old kids answering difficult questions in a difficult environment. Coaches are answering questions knowing their livelihood and career may be on the line.
Where are the referees in this scenario? In the official’s locker room, taking a shower, having a Coke or packing their bags to head out and do another game the next night. Doesn’t it seem strange that teenage kids can be expected to face the bright lights and intense scrutiny of the media and yet the referees receive a pass? Referees should be required to address the media and explain their reasoning and interpretations of the rules based on the actions that occurred in the game.
Top referees from the Power Five conferences earn on average $2,000 to $3,000 per game (per USA Today) and work 50 or more games per season. For a part time job that pays $100,000 or better per year, I believe that more accountability to the public is warranted. If college players are held accountable through reduced playing time and coaches are held accountable through loss of employment at worst or critiquing by the media and public at best, it only seems fitting that referees should also be required to answer questions about their performance.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said: “Don’t let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down, your ego doesn’t go with it.”
I think that quote sums up the reason why we don’t see more public accountability from referees in all levels of sports. Sometimes ego gets in the way of people in power and they believe that any questioning of their actions is disrespectful of them and their position.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Knowing that you will have to explain what you saw or didn’t see concerning actions in the game should help you to sharpen your knowledge, focus and execution during the game similar to what happens with players and coaches. If you know you will have a painful experience explaining your poor performance, it tends to motivate you to always perform well or get out of the business. Both of those scenarios seem to be a win-win for all involved.
Since the NCAA has seen fit to select John Higgins to referee the Final Four games, I am sure calling for referee accountability is like ” beating a dead horse ” but sometimes you need to “beat a dead horse” to get the flies out.