Recently I have the pleasure of having lunch with two giants in the sports officiating business, Terry Gierke and Dale Scott.
For those of you who are just returning from the moon or do not follow sports that well, Terry Gierke is a retired NFL official, with super bowls and 15 playoff games and 22 years in the NFL. Dale Scott is a major league umpire, who at the end of this month will complete his 26th year in major league baseball, is a crew chief, has worked three world series and is considered by all to be one of the top three umpires in major league baseball.
Quite frankly it is shameful and should be an embarrassment to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame that both of these outstanding gentleman have yet to be inducted for that great honor and it needs to happen soon.
What struck myself the most about the lunch is that in sports officiating it is easy to get jaded, cynical and any other words you can think of about a profession that is constantly under the eye of everyone, constant criticism, you never have any home games and for sure there is seldom pats on the back.
With all that said, Gierke and Scott are far from jaded. It was thrilling to hear them talk about sports officiating and how much they still care about the subject, how excited they are to still be involved and how much respect they have for the profession.
To translate this all to basketball, starting this year the Pac-12 in football has spent thousands to improve their football officiating and upgrade from what many thought was an inferior product. Of course if you have been following the the first two weeks of football, perhaps so far the money has been wasted, but on a serious note, the effort they are putting in will pay dividends you would have to think down the road.
But was Pac-12 basketball officiating which has woefully been below standards for years given the same makeover? So far it appears it has been forgotten and we might just see the same old thing that we have seen for years, an inferior product on the floor when it comes to officiating. One thing for sure, the Pac-12 has the money to improve the product, but there has to be a commitment.
As a matter of fact, the same amount of money should be put into basketball as is being done for football, the product is that important to the league on both the men and women's side. The technology is available to make people better, implement it, plus there needs to be more training and educating of officials by the Pac-12.
I might also add that while we heard ongoing comments coming from the Pac-12 to the media about how much they were going to change the football officiating program and make it better, there has been dead silence about basketball. I hate to tell the Pac-12, but your basketball officiating program, was much worse than your football officials. Simply, it needs to improve and it can improve, but it takes effort, people who can get the job done and putting the teeth into making things better, not just talk about making things better.
One final comment about college basketball officiating in general, will somebody please step up and force officials not to work so many games in a season. You can never convince myself that an official who is working his ninth night in a row, all in different cities is as fresh as the first night of the nine game period. As much as college officials are paid, they do not need to work nine nights in row or sometime even longer periods of time, in a row. It is not fair to schools, players and fans and is horrible for the game as a whole.
Deep down, most people who know anything about sports, respect officials, it is just the hope of many and especially when it comes to the Pac-12 that it gets better, please. It is too important a part of the game, not to improve.
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