Saturday, January 31, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Illini progress report

Benjamin questions decorum of referees

By Jeff Benjamin

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[January 31, 2009]  This may seem a little on the opinionated side and that's OK. After reading this, you make think I am putting a lot of the blame on the officials. Well, there certainly seemed to be a lot of odd/questionable calls, but the Railers had their chances and I know the coaching staff or players would never say the officials cost them the game.

InsuranceHowever, there is something I would like to point out that did bother me.

It is my understanding that the officials are out on the floor to be impartial arbiters.

After the Lincoln starters were announced, the starters were introduced for Southeast. As each Spartan was introduced and greeted by a teammate at the top of the key, he made his way to shake hands with one of the Lincoln assistant coaches. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Lincoln side.

All three officials were standing in front of the scorer's bench, facing the court, and, as each Spartan went by, they gave fist bumps to the Spartan players. I again am not saying anything was up or fishy. However, the players and officials have an opportunity to exchange pleasantries during the captains' meeting on the floor before the game.

If this is common practice at Southeast, or any other school, so be it. However, if there is a game where the officiating is questioned by one side or the other, I don't think the school or the conference wants anything that remotely resembles favoritism.

I've learned a lot about officiating from my broadcast partner Tom Larey. Before the game, when I pointed this out to him (and before the final score, so please don't think this would not be mentioned if Lincoln had won the game -- in fact, this is the first portion I am writing, because I wanted to let the fans know about it), Tom said that when he was officiating, he would have turned his back on the situation, not to insult anyone, but to avoid being involved in something that could be construed in any way other than what it was.

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't like it. If you were in attendance, you can attest to the fact that both sides, not just Lincoln, were not very happy with the officials.

It is part of the game, but it is supposed to be the unbiased part of the game, and maybe something should be done to make sure the appearance of being unbiased is upheld.

[Special commentary by JEFF BENJAMIN]

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