DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY
In the world of social media, “JK” means “just kidding.” But the Kokomo Wildkats found out that in the world of sectional basketball, “JK” means J.K. Weider – an IHSAA official who appears to have rabbit ears bigger than the Kokomo Jackrabbits logo.
In Kokomo’s sectional opener Friday night, the Kats were in a hot battle with sectional favorite McCutcheon. With 17 seconds left, Kokomo trailed 59-51 when Jordan Matthews was fouled, sending the Kats record-breaking free throw shooter to the line with two shots. Kokomo head coach Matt Moore, unhappy with a previous call, said something to Weider and drew his first technical foul of the season. Then, 3.9 real-time seconds later, Moore drew a second tech – while walking away from the official in a loud gym – and an ejection signal from Weider. McCutcheon went to the free throw line, hit all four shots and got the ball. In a sense, the game was over.
“I thought our guys were getting bullied on some calls,” Moore said after the game. “He got me (with a tech). I said, ‘That’s garbage,’ and he got me again.”
Those two technical fouls, which resulted in an automatic ejection, means Moore will also be suspended for one game by the IHSAA. Since the Kats lost the game, that suspension will carry-over to the season opener against Western next November in Memorial Gym.
But Weider was not done. After the technical foul shots, he got an earful from a Kokomo fan sitting on the front row. The official did not seem to like that and called for school administrators to come over. With a pair of Lafayette police officers in tow, a Lafayette Jeff administrator arrived and the fan was asked to leave the Marion Crawley Athletic Center.
For anyone who reads my column on a regular basis, you know how much I preach good sportsmanship. So you might be surprised that I am calling out this official and defending Coach Moore. And here is why. I have sat within earshot of Coach Moore for a majority of the season and have walked into his practices unannounced many times; I have NEVER heard a curse word come from his mouth.
Swearing gets a lot of coach’s technical fouls, not saying a call is garbage. When Coach Moore says he did not swear at the official, I believe him. So why in the world did Weider throw out the coach in a critical situation during a sectional game? Moore was by no means demonstrative in his actions – and I guarantee this was not a situation in which he wanted a tech. He was not yelling and screaming, waving his arms or stomping his foot. I went back and watched the footage, and I still cannot figure out why this official called a tech. You can’t hear what Moore said, but I am not sure Weider could either due to the crowd. For the record, this is the same official who called a technical foul on Marion coach James Blackmon in the opening round of the sectional.
As for the fan; he did not get out of his seat. In fact, Weider is seen turning around and addressing the fan while the fan was sitting. Seconds later, he calls for assistance. To me, it almost looked as if the official was baiting the fan. Why turn and address him? From what I understand, the fan was not out of line.
I asked the IHSAA for a copy of the officials report concerning the ejection to learn why Weider thought it was necessary for Moore to leave the premises. IHSAA administrators replied via email, “We don’t share the unsporting behavior reports.” I have to wonder what they are hiding. Why wouldn’t they release the report to the public? What is Weider’s justification for tossing a coach in a close sectional game?
There is an unwritten rule that an official should not give a coach a quick second technical foul; let another official give it.
- In December 2014, Kathy Jenkins wrote a guide on technical fouls for the National Federation of State High School Associations, saying, “When you give a T, walk away. Make them earn the second one.”
- The Texas Association of Sports Officials posted, “Once you issue the Technical, MOVE AWAY to the center court. You don’t want to be the catalyst for a second technical by standing there and goading or baiting him into the next technical, which is an automatic ejection. This is unacceptable behavior by the official.”
- As for officials dealing with spectators, the IHSAA Officials Handbook states, “Don’t talk to the fans. This only encourages them to talk to you, and you may very well wish you had not encouraged them. Try not to have ‘rabbit ears!’ Even if you do hear comments made by fans, you must learn to ignore them and not let them influence you.”
Weider failed on all parts. While it is within his rights to call two technical fouls and have game administrators deal with fans, my observance was that this was not the right time or correct call for either. To me, he took the technical foul and made it personal to him. And in the process, he cost the Kats any chance for a miracle victory while sending Coach Moore to the locker room for the final 17 seconds and the entire 2015-2016 season opening game. I am not saying Kokomo lost because of him, but Weider sure altered the end of a great sectional contest.
The IHSAA needs to look at this – and I hope they reconsider the suspension. The crew at the Lafayette sectional whistled four technical fouls in the tourney – with Weider calling three of them. The game is for the student-athletes, not the official’s ego. The official should never be the bigger part of the game. It is a shame the way the game ended. It would be a shame if another coach has to deal with this official in tournament play. And it is a shame that Coach Moore will have to miss opening night next season.
Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.
Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.