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But do you wanna? I mean, really, would you wanna?

From the NY Times: Earning Their Stripes as Umpires and Referees

Ashlee Harrison of Norristown, Pa., a basketball referee, likes the work.

“Right now, it’s the best part-time job I’ve ever had,” said Ms. Harrison, 32, who jumped into officiating four years ago after coaching high school basketball. As with many new officials, at first she refereed games played by 12-year-olds for as little as $25; she now makes far more and sometimes works seven days a week at the women’s junior college and Division III levels.

“The games I drive to can be two, two and a half hours away,” said Ms. Harrison. “It’s literally an eight-hour day by the time you get back.” But she expects to consider officiating as a full-time job soon.

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Now we know, and knowing

really hurts my heart.

Bonita Spence, a Referee Who Drew Cheers, Dies at 51

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Things you didn’t know about Bonita Spence, 51, longtime women’s basketball referee

Ms. Spence played at Monmouth and was the point guard on the school’s first Division I team in 1982. She set the school’s assist record that season, a mark that was matched a year later and still stands. Ms. Spence was a graduate assistant for the school a year later.

Ms. Spence also worked as a principal investigator in the New Jersey office of the public defender in Newark for more than 20 years.

More things you didn’t know, from Mel

After universal condemnation of the crew it was learned a few days later that Spence told the other two officials who were deciding anything but the error to look at the monitor and she was waved off the by the other two — who, by the way, continued to work deep into the NCAA tournament that season a month later.

Several days after that game the Guru was covering a non-descript contest in a lower mid-major conference and Bonita showed up as part of the crew and came over prior to the tip to give a friendly greeting.

The Guru, knowing she was at the big-time level of referees in terms of games and conferences worked, jokingly asked if her being in the arena was punishment.
Bonita just gave a certain body gesture amounting to don’t look at me, which appeared to give creedence to that report.

To this day when that game comes up in certain circles, no one has ever countered to say the report was false.

So that is what the Guru had in mind when he noted in Monday’s tweet that Bonita had integrity.

From Katie Meir’s staff at Miami: Staff found this fun clip of Bonita Spence enjoying life! A great loss for WBB

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via Mel:

@womhoopsguru Sad to hear of passing of referee Bonita Spence. Always had great conversations and thinking of her the word integrity comes quickly.

from Geno: @genoauriemma 30m
Lost a good official today. Lost an even better person. Prayers for Bonita Spence and her family.

From College Spun: Women’s Basketball World Mourns Death Of Longtime Referee Bonita Spence

The women’s basketball world took a big hit on Monday with the death of longtime referee Bonita Spence. Spence worked in both the college and WNBA ranks and was one of the better officials in the game. She was also one of the most notable personalities among referees.

Spence used to officiate numerous UConn games at both Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center in Hartford. Each time, she was received with a drawn out cry of “Boooooniiiiiiitaaaa!!” from the student section, to which she always responded with a smile.

My heart goes out to her family — blood and black & white striped.

(Hope DWHoops doesn’t mind)

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but I’d rather there be some facts to back it up (and maybe some action steps?).

Sally Jenkins — who has, in the past, sent over some kind words to the blog (and may now want to retract them) — offers up her piece Women’s basketball needs to work to earn an audience and it’s full of finger pointing, but little substance.

1) Why is Jenkins perpetuating the myth that women’s basketball was “elegant” and suddenly has become physical. Which Lady Vols games was she watching? As Coach Summitt says, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.” Oh, now, I’m not saying the game can’t get overly physical (btw, not a uniquely female issue), BUT let’s not pretend there was a “golden age” of non-physical women’s basketball — unless you REALLY want to go back to the “golden age” of no dribbling.

2) It’s “scandalous” that scoring has dropped by 8pts and shooting percentages have dropped? What’s scandalous is there’s no attempt to identify the WHY of that. Maybe women just can’t shoot. Maybe it’s AAU’s fault. Or High School coaches’ fault. Or maybe women are now coached to play both sides of the ball….you know, it’s called DEFENSE? (BTW, if you do some research, you’ll see there are similar issues on the men’s side.)

3) Oooo, this is an oldie but goodie: It’s the OFFICIALS’ fault! What is new is that Jenkins is upset they DON’T call enough fouls. Instead of the usual old saw — blaming the referees for turning the game into a “whistle fest embarrassment” — she blames the officials for not calling physical play enough.  (Hmmm.. who MAKES the rules that the officials have to enforce? And who coaches AROUND the rules the officials have to enforce?) Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, huh, Patty, Dee and Maj? (And if anyone thinks every other league is totally satisfied with their officiating, they obviously haven’t been paying attention.)

I’ve written extensively about NCAA officiating (and even offered some action steps) — speaking with the officials, coordinators, coaches and such — for Women’s Basketball Magazine and the WBCA’s Coaching Women’s Basketball. I’ve had long, thoughtful conversations with the folks at the center of the issues and, if I may say so, produced long, thoughtful and informative pieces about the profession and its challenges. But I don’t really think “non-officals” care.

My overall takeaway? It’s easier to point fingers than actually DO something. There was a push a while back on the NCAA side — led on the women’s side by the since departed Mary Struckhoff. But it’s really up to the Conferences (meaning athletic directors and coaches). But, they like their fiefdoms and don’t want anyone telling them how they should or shouldn’t spend their money. So, what’s the path of least resistance for fans, coaches, players and writers? Blame the officials — ’cause they’re not allowed to talk back.

4) New math alert: apparently the women’s game has “healthy ratings and rights fees” and plays in “sold out arenas of close to 20,000” and the only reason it’s not raking in the moola like the men’s tournament is “mismanagement.” I know it’s too much to ask for some facts to back those statements up like, you know: what were the ratings v. the men’s, what are the fees, how much does it cost to run the tournament, fly and house and feed the teams and such….

But “sold out arenas”? What tournament is she watching? ’cause this is what Trey wrote post-2013 FF: “When Connecticut and Louisville met for the women’s crown Tuesday night in the New Orleans Arena, there were 17,500 fans, short of capacity.” So, let’s say a total of 35,000 fans. In comparison, the attendance at the 2013 men’s final in Georgia was 74,326. Which comes to a total of  148,652.

As for the overall tournament, it’s kind of a challenge to find any page listing the total attendance numbers (wonder why), but: here’s the women’s Round 1&2 attendance. And here’s the NCAA’s spin: “Attendance at the men’s basketball tournament reached nearly 430,000 fans and the women’s tournament has seen a significant increase over last year.”

Which means: The per session average of 4,850 fans was also a 20 percent increase from last year’s per session attendance average during the first- and second-rounds.” Last year, the total attendance was (I think, if I’m reading this right) 203,788. The average attendance, 4852. It would appear the the “golden years” of women’s basketball attendance were 1999-2004. I’m guessing there was SOMEthing about those years that made them good for women’s basketball, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. (Yes, that was the sarcasm plane flying by.)

So, when Sally throws around the term “mismanagement,” what I want to know is: Who’s mismanaging what? And why? What has caused attendance to drop, not build? Is it the economy? Is the fan base aging? Disenchanted? Is it because the media world is shrinking and that has snuffed out coverage? Is it athletic directors and the choices the have to/want to make?

The NCAA offered grants to schools and conferences to support their efforts to build their audiences. Some took them up on the offers — many did not. And I’m going to lay even money that most programs couldn’t be bothered to look at the “best practices” those grants produced. WHY they wouldn’t learn from others is for you to ponder.

The NCAA has altered it’s bidding process for hosting tournament games, and still schools/conferences don’t want to host — guess why.

So, if Val is laying out the following “next steps”  (according to Jenkins – h/t FOWHB Joan)…

  • Upgrading officiating
  • Bring business mind-set to ticket sales and television
  • Exploring (“dramatic”) rule changes to make the game more exciting and faster-paced (no mention of what those are)
  • Explore putting the men’s and women’s FF in the same city at different arenas

…let’s talk turkey, and not fling mud. Let’s please start with some facts. And a whole heap of will. And money. The research is out there — but who is going to make the changes happen?

And just ’cause I can, let me offer my  “BAD IDEA” feedback to “same city, different arenas” so it can be tabled and energy can be spent on things we CAN control:

A) It will reduce the number of writers covering the game, because media outlets will cut costs. I’m sure ESPN will say, “Mechelle, you have to cover the men’s tournament as well.” And you know what happens when women’s writers are forced to cover the men’s game….

B) It’s not the same fan base. I, as a women’s fan, have no desire to tromp the same streets as a bunk of over-imbibed Louisville or Kentucky fans who can’t have an intelligent discussion about the similarities and differences between Chiney and Kaleena’s games.

C) Let’s limit the numbers of host cities, much? How many have 20,000+ arenas? And, am I remembering correctly that CBS covers the men’s tournament? So, does that mean they’ll have to fight with ESPN for the good broadcasting spots, or will they share equipment (hah)?

It’s interesting to review my earlier (flashback, 2008) suggestions:

Finally, there’s simply a lot of basic, un-sexy, ground level work to be done to promote the women’s game and grow it to the next level of fandom. Some first steps?

  • Energetic Coaches who understand building an audience is part of their job
  • Better Quality Sports Information Directors who pro-actively cultivate media coverage and find creative ways to get the word out about their sport
  • Athletic Programs that take advantage of the NCAA Marketing materials that are available. The NCAA has done a lot of the work for you — but it does you no good if you don’t use it. (And kudos to the NCAA for their marketing grant program)
  • As Geno notes, ask/beg/make ESPN do a better job of promoting the game. Yah, yah, they’ve expanded their coverage to the full tourney. And yah, they had those great Monday match ups — but promos, highlights, news items and ESPN Classics broadcasts are weak. And I’m not even going to discuss the quality of some of the play-by-play and color commentary people….
  • How about a stronger cross-promotion with the WNBA? Moving the draft to the Final Four weekend was a huge success. What are other (NCAA legal) ways to connect the two worlds/fan bases?

The “Three to Watch” campaign is exactly what I meant about cross-promotion. And the draft was broadcast! The other stuff — what do you think? Have we made any progress? (Gottlieb anyone?)

Finally, a followup on the courage of Griner and Augustus and Tully: If you don’t think homophobia – internalized and external – hinders the growth of our game, you’re a fool. Simply put – haters and homophobes are gonna hate. They think everyone involved with women’s basketball is gay – coaches, players, fans – so what’s the big dealio?

Stand up and say, “So the F*CK what! I will not tolerate hate speech. I will not tolerate bigots. I will be an ally. I will speak up. I will speak out. I will challenge my fan base, my administration, my team, myself to build a more inclusive world.”

Heck, even if that doesn’t grow the women’s basketball game, it’ll make the world a better place.

And isn’t that what we want?

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Disrespecting and demeaning teachers and officials is all but a national sport, but no one really wants to step in to their shoes.

Case in point: the NFL v Officials brouhaha.

Have you seen this? VIDEO: Call it maybe (NFL Replacement Officials Parody)

The thing is, it ain’t the “replacement refs” fault. Yes, they’re there because they’re “scabs,” but they are also there because the NFL and the “real” officials (Association, not Union — big difference) are at odds.

Over at the Sports Economist, Victor Matheson is Throwing a flag on Brian Goff

Earlier today my colleague Brian Goff weighed in on the current NFL referee strike. I think he got almost everything right except one crucial point.

As current D1 college soccer referee and a former Major League Soccer official, I have to take issue with Brian’s claim, “Yes, there are some specific skills, both individually and as a coordinated unit, that officials need in order to effectively manage an NFL game, and these skills take some time and training to attain to the level of the old refs. However, there are literally thousands if not millions of people capable of acquiring these skills in a relatively short time.”

Let me tell you from first-hand experience that this is almost certainly completely untrue. High-level sports officiating is extraordinarily difficult. I’m smart enough to have received a Ph.D. in economics from a good school. I am fairly athletic and fit. I have over 100 professional games and 750 collegiate games of experience as a referee. At the peak of my ability I was among the 100 best referees in the US out of over 100,000 registered soccer officials in the country. And yet, if I were called upon to serve as a replacement referee in the event of an MLS referee’s strike, I would be a significant drop in quality compared to the average referee in MLS. If someone with my skills and experience would have a hard time stepping into the lion’s den, there’s simply not some huge pool of potential MLS or NFL referees out there just waiting to be discovered.

Oh, and for those who think women’s basketball officials suck simply because it’s women’s basketball and no one cares enough to demand that they get better officials, Goff also has: MLB Umps: Evaluated but not Incentivized

The egregiously poor call against in the Yankees-Orioles game when Mark Texeira slid into first base throws attention back on to several issues with MLB umpiring

I’m also thinking that, if and when the regular refs return, fans and coaches are going to have to be sooooo nice to them. (Yah, right. That honeymoon will last a game’s worth.)

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part of the women’s basketball twitter feed, I can be amused at these tweets:

SunsKayte Kayte Christensen
This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever witnessed. Awful.

SunsKayte Kayte Christensen
I am all about drawing fouls but Scola’s “tactics” are beyond irritating and it is cheap and ruins the game of basketball

SunsKayte Kayte Christensen
I’ll say this again tweeps…this game getting close had nothing to do w/taking the bench out & putting starters in. You know what it is

Yes, fans LOVE men’s officiating. It’s high quality, consistent and doesn’t let the game get out of hand physically.

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