Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Courtside Conversations with Paul Johnson
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 22, 2004
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Jan. 27, 2004

Is there any way that basketball officiating for women's basketball games in the Pac-10 Conference could get any worse? Is there any possibility that more calls could be missed, more inconsistency could exist, or a lesser number of rules could be followed? I hope not, because if it got any worse, we would be better off hiring some guy from row 42 to strap on a whistle and pretend to officiate with a rule book in one hand and a beer in the other. It has gotten that bad!

As I have watched women's basketball evolve over the past decade, I have seen the players get better, the coaches improve, the crowds grow larger, and the officiating disintegrate. Can you guess which of the previously listed items doesn't belong? To me, the problem is very simple: officiating has not kept up with the growth of the game. However, the solution is a bit more difficult to come by.

While broadcasting the Arizona-Oregon game this week, I sat near a high-ranking U of O athletic official. After watching one of the poorest efforts by an officiating crew in recent memory, we both shook our heads. How could this be? What has happened? Why are there so few quality referees to go around? These are all questions that the Pacific-10 Conference had better answer quickly.

Let's take Arizona's Shawntinice Polk for example. Polkey is averaging exactly one more foul per game on the road than at home. She has fouled out of three away games and just one at McKale Center. Does she play any differently at home? I don't think she does. The problem I see, on a consistent basis, is that referees are intimidated, and when she moves a finger, the whistle blows. What a shame! Here is one of the greatest talents that has ever come through the conference, and the officials are literally taking her game away. When will these striped shirts realize that Polkey just does things that other people can't? And when will they come to grips with the fact that just being 6'5", mobile, and strong doesn't mean that you commit a foul on every play? It is sad to watch.

It isn't just Polkey that suffers from ineffective officiating. The fans are the ones that ultimately suffer. Time after time this season, crews have missed obvious traveling, double- dribbles and lane violations. There have even been instances where the referees did not know the rules in various situations! That simply has to change.

Whether the Pac-10 Conference will address their officiating woes is open to question. However, one thing is for sure -- when I look to see who is calling an Arizona game, I can closely predict who will win and how many fouls Polkey will be saddled with. That shouldn't happen. Whether it is better training, leadership from on top of the conference, or a total change in the way officials are chosen, something must be done. Because, believe me, it has gotten that bad!

See you on the radio!
Paul Johnson

All Arizona Women's Basketball Games are broadcast live on 1330 AM!

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