Monday, January 28, 2008

Women's basketball need better officials

You won't get either Pam Borton or Suzy Merchant making comments about it because they would get censured by the league.

But I can -- the Big Ten have the worst officiating in women's basketball.

The three-person crew who worked Sunday's Michigan State-Minnesota contest: Barb, John and Tim (we won't use their last names to protect the guilty or incompetent), acted like Moe, Larry and Curly in their inconsistent whistling. Forty fouls were called between the two teams.

The Gophers' Emily Fox gets called for charging, after she stole the ball at mid court, when the Spartan player gave her little room to make adjustments. Later in the game, a similar play again occurred and the referees called it right -- blocking.

Touch fouls were regularly called. Meanwhile, muggings on both sides were left virtually uncalled.

"It was a very physical basketball game," admits Borton afterwards. On the record, Merchant offered a 'no-comment' response during her post-game remarks.

I have covered women's basketball for 20 years, and rarely can I say that the officiating has been, at best, average. It's even worse in the WNBA, where many of the bad officials also work during the summer.

The women deserve better. A lot better.

If it was the other side, and bad officiating was this long being present in men's basketball, all hell would been made. The sports media would endlessly decry this.

ESPN would do around the clock "Outside the Lines," getting to the bottom of this.

Congressional hearings would be called, and the bigwigs in charged subpoenaed.

But because it's only women, no one seems to care. No one seems to care that these female athletes deserves the best, as does their male counterparts.

And it doesn't matter -- the female officials are no better than their male partners.

In a word, they all stink with incompetency. They all lack consistency.

The women's game deserves better. Good officials will make the games better to watch. They will have a better flow to it.

Rather than a Sunday contest, such as the Gophers-Spartans one, that slugged along because three officials thought that the almost 10,000 spectators in Williams Arena, and the few that were watching it on television (on the Big Ten Network, which still is blacked out in Minnesota, unless you have a dish), were there to watch them perform.

We did --- Their awful performance sadly out shined the players.

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