Referees just getting in the way of the game

Officiating is one of those things nobody likes.


When’s the last time you came away pleased with the refereeing in a game you were watching, praising the officials for a job well done?

The officiating in Saturday’s USC-Arizona men’s game wasn’t too great, and controversy ensued.

In their last game of the season, the Trojans were up by three, 69-66, with seconds remaining in regulation. The Wildcats had possession. Arizona guard Kyle Fogg threw up a desperation three-pointer that didn’t go in.

Game over, right? No.

USC sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic was whistled for what can only be described as an unusual foul call. It sent Fogg to the line for three free throws — all of which Fogg nailed to send the game into overtime.

Let’s just say USC coach Kevin O’Neill wasn’t pleased about the development. After the game, he refused to address the situation directly.

“Everyone knows what happened out there,” O’Neill said in his postgame press conference, according to “It’s no secret. Everyone at the game saw what happened and I’m going to leave it at that.”

Vucevic was just puzzled.

“I didn’t touch anything,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I just went up with my hand in the air so he couldn’t see the basket.”

That was that, and the Trojans moved on to the overtime period with a serious chip on their shoulders.

Only that wasn’t it.

USC was hampered by a number of other calls over the course of the game, including an Arizona shot in the first overtime that appeared to be released after the shot clock expired, but was counted by officials.

In the end the Trojans lost, 86-84, in overtime on a clean layup by Arizona point guard Nic Wise

But the story after the game was more focused on the officiating than anything else.

And that right there, is when you know referees aren’t doing their job.

One of the first things you learn in referee school is to not change the outcome of the game. Essentially, you are a sidenote to the happenings of the matter, not a key part of it.

But, all too often, referees don’t stay true to that. Take Fogg’s shot for example. If the foul hadn’t been called, it’s not like Arizona had much to complain about.

The rule of thumb is that fouls aren’t supposed to be called in a game’s waning seconds unless it is completely obvious.

And that one wasn’t.

Fogg himself said he wasn’t expecting the call afterward, but he gladly took what he could get and ran with it.

Now, go ahead and take a moment to think about all the calls you’ve thought were garbage over the last year or so.

Think through all of USC football’s 13 games, and the basketball team’s 30 contests as well as the other sports played at USC.

And I’m not just saying calls that harmed the Trojans — I can think of plenty calls that favored USC and hurt their opponents.

But how many bad calls can you recall, just from memory?

In October, the Trojans played Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. The Irish had a fourth-and-two situation from the USC 27-yard line in the first quarter. They used a fake goal to drive down to the two-yard line and set up a touchdown.

But there was an obvious mistake. Notre Dame had a player run to the sideline, who appeared to exit the playing field, but he stayed on.

The Thursday after the game, Pac-10 officiating coordinator Dave Cutaia admitted the refs had made a mistake on the play and two others during the game — including a personal foul call on Taylor Mays that turned out to occur when the opponent was still inbounds.

But there was no benefit for USC after the game, of course. No team ever gets anything when an official admits mistake after the game.

But the Trojans would’ve taken one of those for Saturday’s mishap.

Looking Past the X’s and O’s runs Mondays. To comment on this article, visit or e-mail Pedro at