Archive for Saturday, November 20, 2004

Mayer: Refs should be answerable

November 20, 2004


Why not athletic officials, too?

Jocks and their coaches are criticized, queried and held accountable for their activities in and out of competition. Heck, chancellors, athletic directors, deans, professors (ask Dennis Dailey), police and media wretches are called to the woodshed to tell why they did what, with which and to or with whom.

So why are the folks in the striped shirts and other unique attire wired off from askance? At least at the college and high school levels, refs, umps et al are being paid a whale of a lot more than the kids whose activities they orchestrate. Why shouldn't they also be held accountable and reprimanded publicly?

There needn't be lynch mobs or field-storming tactics such as we see or hear about in those soccer-nutty countries. I'm just talking about allowing players, coaches and all those affected by "calls" in fun-and-games to question the officials' decisions and say so when they think they've been wronged. Just make the refs answerable for what everybody sees.

On at least two calls Saturday, Kansas got reamed like a hollow log. Texas' Cedric Benson clearly fumbled near his own goal, and Kansas should have been given the ball. But the Longhorns kept possession, and Kansas was denied a great shot at some kind of score. In a game decided, 27-23.

OK, bad move, but at least it was in heavy traffic and you could give somebody the benefit of the doubt (though television removed that). Then came that offensive-pass-interference call against Kansas' Charles Gordon that absolutely reeked. Replay after replay showed that the Texas defender had his hands all over Gordon first and that Gordon merely brushed him aside in a legal chicken-fight before catching a pass that gave KU a first down; clock winding down, 23-20 KU lead.

Could be that KU coach Mark Mangino and his people were still smoldering about that bungle on the Benson blivvy, but this really re-lit the fuse. Didn't go any good at the time because Texas wound up with the ball. Then came a pivotal 22-yard gain by Vince Young on a fourth down and 18 and the Young pass for the winning score with 11 seconds to go.

I felt horrible mostly for the Jayhawks, who had played so hard, so gallantly and so well. They flat-out deserved to win. An emotional Mangino went to bat in a fashion you might expect of him but strayed too far. Kansas fans everywhere admire Mark for being so dedicated to giving his players their just due. Had it been just a $5,000 fine for an outburst, a reprimand and a "no-more" warning, our folks may have passed the hat.

But the hot-tempered Mangino got carried away and implied that an official who made the call on Gordon was consciously manipulating rich-bitch Texas not to lose so it could bring in millions of rasbukniks to the Big 12 treasury via a major bowl game. A fix? No libel action regarding motive and intent, but if somebody like Johnnie Cochran or Mark Geragos had been sniffing around, could have happened.

But why shouldn't a coach so full of appreciation of his players be able to question a call that cost his kids one of the great upsets in school history? Why should some zebra skate away scot-free, under unrealistic, protective rules of job evaluation, while players are left drained and devastated knowing they should have won?

Granted, Mangino pushed things beyond that envelope. I can understand why Lew Perkins, the league and maybe even the chancellor might have to zonk. Lousy premise, understandable vent.

The zebras repeatedly get off too cheap considering they make good money and are supposed to earn respect. There ought to be more public analysis of what they do, with explanations. And even a few apologies, like their victims sometimes must offer?

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops got into the mix when he pointed out that ESPN and the Southeastern Conference have a linkup that just might tilt ESPN's favoritism to the national ranking of Auburn, over OU, of course. But Stoops did it in a low-key situation and should escape the kind of come-uppance Mangino has to stomach.

And no "untouchable" zebra was on the pan for the Stoops remarks.

  • All of us athletic hacks have to be pleased when a college basketball walk-on like Christian Moody winds up with a scholarship and even gets a start or two. Any other No. 1-ranked team ever had a walk-on start?

Fans have long adored walk-ons, some good, some atrocious, but always appreciated and supported. One of the most celebrated show-ups of recent times was Mark Turgeon of Topeka, 1984-87, now Wichita State head coach. In effect, Gil Reich (1953) and Charlie Hoag (1951-52) were "walk-ons" since they'd been signed primarily for football.

And what about the incomparable Kelleys, Dean and Al, from McCune? They didn't exactly come here for pre-1955 stardom with press clippings stuffed in their valises. Nobody had yet heard of a McDonald's A-A rating.

Time was, like the 1930s and mid-40s, when a majority of KU players were "walk-ons," like eventual KU coach Dick Harp in 1936-37. In today's moneyed climate, though, it's great to see that there's still a chance for bona fide amateurs like Moody to get a foot in the door.

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