Officials can decide a game

Sports Equipment

For the longest time I have kept the position that officials do not decide games. Sometimes they make calls that certainly have an impact and when those calls happen late in a contest we, as fans, blame the officials for our team losing. In many of those instances you can argue that turnovers earlier in the game or poor shooting or whatever could have changed the outcome of the game. My argument has always been a game that has 40 or 60 minutes of game play does not get decided by a call that takes a couple of seconds. I realize some will not agree with that.

I fully supported my thoughts, obviously, and would justify them if asked during certain games. That was until the University of Sioux Falls women’s basketball team lost to Winona State. If you haven’t seen the controversy here was the situation……A USF player hit a 30-foot shot to put the Cougars in front, the clock expired, horn sounded and the team and fans rushed the court. The officials immediately were blowing whistles to push them off the court for a review, which all of them complied. After review the officials put 0.4 seconds back on the clock before issuing a technical foul to USF giving two FT’s to Winona State, which they made to win the game. USF Head Coach Travis Traphagen tweeted the rule following the game:

On Sunday the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference issued a statement in response to the situation:
NSIC response

Who knows what would have happened in the final 0.4 seconds, but odds are USF would have won the game had the error not occurred. Sure, USF could have shot the ball a little better and maybe we aren’t having this conversation. However, when the clock hits “0” the only individuals on the court are players in the game. You can’t fault bench players or fans who think they pulled an upset for running onto the floor.

Obviously this was a very unfortunate situation. Interestingly enough two of the officials involved were on the court the next day at the University of South Dakota to officiate the Coyotes Summit League contest with Omaha. The other official also works Summit League games. If you are the Summit League, are you obligated to take action against them?

For the most part, I will stick to my position that officials do not decide games. Not with this one. Not when a misapplication of a rule takes an upset away from the underdog.

For what it’s worth, the Cougars responded the next day by defeating Upper Iowa 84-63.

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