Gregg Doyel has an interesting article up today about referee Rick Hartzell and his dual role as college basketball referee and Athletic Director of NCAA team Northern Iowa. (Hat tip to Tar Heel March for the link)
Now, to me the issue is pretty plain. While I don’t think Hartzell would cheat because of his position, the NCAA should disallow this. There’s just no way that it makes sense to allow officials at a university to referee games between other schools at the same level. The article even gives an example of Hartzell reffing a game involving a team in his own conference. Can you imagine Lee Fowler officiating a Duke – Carolina game?
So, yes I have a problem with the situation, but I don’t blame Rick Hartzell for it. On the other hand, I do have a completely different beef with Hartzell. It’s an old, LARGE beef. A whole side of beef.
Way back in the day when Jeff Jones was the coach and UVA was actually pretty decent (the earth’s crust had only recently cooled), there was a very tight game between the Cavaliers and Duke in Charlottesville. In the waning seconds, the score was tied and Virginia was shooting a free throw for the lead.
As is standard in these situations, UVA had a sub waiting to go in for the shooter. If he made the free throw, the sub would come in. Coaches always do this, because it gives their defense a chance to get set for the final play.
So, UVA hits the free throw and the horn sounds for the sub. Referee Rick Hartzell doesn’t blow his whistle though, and Duke inbounds the ball to Steve Wojciechowski (you better believe I googled that name) who dribbles furiously up the court. The Cavs and most of the Blue Devils were just standing around confused. Wojo gets to the other end of the court before anyone else (including the scorer who never starts the clock) realizes that the game is actually in progress and he’s fouled by Norman Nolan. After a long, long discussion with the coaches, the refs decide to run the clock down and give Wojo the free throws. He hits both and Duke wins by one.
Now, that missed call was bad. Awful in fact. As bad a missed call as a ref can make (I think the ACC even issued an apology, which is something they really don’t do). They should always know when subs are available and ignoring that, the horn should be a hint. On top of that, like I said, the pattern is one that’s followed in every game. Coaches always sub in that situation, so the refs should expect it.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Incompetence upsets me, but that stuff happens. What really pissed me off were the comments by Rick Hartzell after the game. He denied any mistake at all and said that he had just never seen Willie Dersch check in to the scorer’s table. The problem with this claim is that the television replays clearly showed Hartzell waving Dersch in before the second UVA free throw. Dersch gave him the shooter motion, indicating that he was in for the guy at the line (again, players do this all the time). Hartzell nodded his head and gave the ball to the shooter. About three seconds later, he blew the call.
To rehash, he blew the call, later denied any responsibility and then lied about it and blamed the scorer for improperly blowing the horn.
Is that what you want from your officials, the guys who are there to maintain the integrity of the game? To me, that episode told me everything I needed to know about Hartzell. A man of any integrity admits his mistakes and never lies to cover them up. Under pressure, Hartzell blamed everyone else.
Frankly, I’m amazed that anyone pays this guy to ref at all, AD job or not.