Sun Belt reacting well to bad mistake

January, 6, 2012
The Sun Belt should get credit for how it handled a recent officiating situation.

The Atlantic 10 should not.

Accountability needs to be the key. The three officials from the Sun Belt Conference that worked Thursday night's Louisiana-Lafayette-Western Kentucky game will be disciplined by the conference.

All three -- Brad Gaston, Roger Ayers and Reinaldo Acosta -- failed to see the Ragin' Cajuns had six players on the court for the final possession of the game. There were breakdowns by the ULL coaching staff that led to sending out six players, by the WKU stat crew/scorekeeper for not noticing and by the Hilltopper staff -- led by coach Ken McDonald, who was finally removed from the hot seat with a Friday firing -- for not drawing attention to it once the Cajuns were set up to inbound the ball.

Had it been whistled by the officials, ULL would have been given a technical foul, and Western could have shot free throws to break the 70-70 tie.

But the responsibility lies with the officials. They failed. They didn't catch it. They are human and made a mistake.

Mike Wood, a longtime former ACC official who is the Sun Belt coordinator of officials, was quick to respond Thursday night. And again on Friday he admitted the crew should have noticed the six players on the court. Granted, Western Kentucky didn't do anything to stop Elfrid Payton from scoring with three seconds left -- he took the inbounds pass and zigged and zagged his way to the basket -- but the officials have to count the number of players. It's a given. The six players were right in front of their line of vision.

Wood said Friday the matter will be handled internally. He said the three officials will be disciplined and that likely means some sort of game suspension.

Good. There are always consequences for actions, especially in this high-profile sport.

Yet it's befuddling how Atlantic 10 coordinator of officials Reggie Greenwood and the A-10 didn't do anything to the three officials who worked last month's Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. The A-10 assigned the officials for the Xavier home game at the Cintas Center.

Just look at the consequences from that fight. Cincinnati has had a resurgence, but a potential Final Four team in Xavier is in free fall. Is that the officials' fault? Of course not. But the consensus since the Dec. 10 fight is that the officials had to hand out technical fouls to stop the squawking before it escalated.

Instead, the three officials -- Tony Crisp, Jeff Anderson and Michael Roberts -- did nothing.

Doug Shows, another veteran official, was quick to get in the middle of some jawing during a Louisville game I was watching last month. He didn't hesitate. He knew how to control a game. If someone got out of line, he was likely to issue a technical. That's what should have happened in the XU-UC game.

Greenwood would have earned a lot more respect among his colleagues if he had admitted the officials made a mistake and handed down some sort of internal punishment. Instead, he said they did nothing wrong.

The Sun Belt saw an error and reacted. Wood didn't hide.

He told me Friday that the mistake was made, and now they just have to move on to this weekend's game while trying to decide the punishment. That's fine.

Meanwhile, everyone is still waiting for the A-10 and Greenwood to admit that the officials on the Xavier-Cincinnati game didn't handle the situation and missed chances to issue technical fouls.

Last March, there were some in the officiating community who were upset that NCAA tournament director of officials John Adams criticized the end-of-game situation in the St. John's-Rutgers Big East tournament game. Adams is in charge of the NCAA tournament, not conference tournaments or regular-season games. But he was right. He called out poor management at the end of the game. There is nothing wrong with doing that. It is the right approach.

We all make mistakes, some more than others. When we're wrong, we should admit it, deal with any consequence and move on. Officials aren't immune. The Sun Belt set an example on how to react.

These aren't correctable errors, just as the ending to the ULL-WKU will not be erased from the history books.

But they are accountable mistakes.

Good on the Sun Belt for recognizing that.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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