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Overreffing Can Be a Bad Call

By Yong-yi Zhu

SPORTS COLUMNIST

The Baylor Lady Bears’ basketball program is sitting at home today. They will no longer have the opportunity to play for a national championship. Instead, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers have been given that opportunity. Sure, Baylor lost the game on Sunday night to Tennessee, but they were not wholly responsible for that final score.

With just under six seconds left in the game, the game was tied at 69. Tennessee’s Shyra Ely drove to the hoop on a breakaway and put up a lay-up. The shot bounced around the rim yet did not go in. LaToya Davis, her teammate, attempted to tip the ball in and still was unsuccessful. Finally, as Tasha Butts, another Tennessee player, tried to grab the rebound, she and Baylor’s Jessika Stratton ran into each other. A whistle blew for a foul but time had run out. Let’s play overtime! Or shall we?

The officials were not convinced. They felt that the foul happened when there still was time on the clock. So, they went to the replay monitor, huddled, discussed, and came to the conclusion that there were 0.2 seconds left on the clock when Stratton fouled Butts. Back went Tasha Butts to the foul line to shoot two free throws, knowing that if she made any one of them, the game would be over; 0.2 seconds was nowhere near enough time to get off a good shot. Butts made both, and Tennessee went on to win the game 71-69.

But that was just the beginning of the troubles. Let’s go back to that last sequence of events one more time. Sure, Butts and Stratton collided, but both were going for the ball and it was not completely obvious who had committed a foul. Sure, there were 0.2 seconds on the clock when they bumped one another, but when should the clock have stopped? It takes time for the officials to blow the whistle, and it takes even more time for the scorer’s table to stop the clock. Who knew how much time actually should have been left on that clock, if any?

Many say that officials should not determine the outcome of a game. That’s completely bogus, because officials are determining outcomes of games all the time. A foul, a travel, a jump-ball called at any point has bearing on the final results. Officials are there to make the tough calls that have to be made, and I have plenty of respect for that. But the officials in this game should not have made such a decision with such little evidence to decide such an important outcome. Oftentimes, they put too much thought into the technicalities of the game. They want to get the right call so badly that they ignore many of the circumstances surrounding them. The fact that this decision basically decided who got a chance to go to the elite eight and who got the chance to go home should have been left to the players in overtime. There might have been a foul, and there might not have. It was a judgment call, and to send a hardworking group of kids home on what might have happened is simply a terrible judgment call to make.

Let’s not mention how great this might have been for the Baylor basketball program to have a chance to advance to the elite eight. This comes less than a year removed from the incident in which Patrick Dennehy, a Baylor basketball player, was found murdered. This also comes less than a year removed from the resignation of the men’s basketball head coach, Dave Bliss. To arise from such a tarnished reputation to being one bad call away from an elite eight appearance is quite remarkable.

This is not to take any credit away from the Lady Vols. Who’s to say they would have lost in the overtime? Pat Summit has always kept that team together to be held in the highest regard by all other college basketball programs. Now, their road to the national championship may be somewhat tarnished by this incident. Not only was everyone involved, including Summit, disappointed at what happened, but Baylor and the Big XII have already asked for an investigation into the call.

What have sports come to when they become filled with legal controversies and technicalities? When is it right for officiating to be more important than the actual talent of the players? Are not the officials there to make the game fair? This call was neither fair nor the right call. I’m not saying that replay is a bad thing or that officiating is a bad thing. I’m just saying that I want the right calls to be made. But I guess we can’t always get what we ask for. I just think the Lady Bears deserved it. In my mind, they were not losers that day but merely victims.