NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) -
Players have bad games, coaches have bad games and they are always held accountable by both the fans and the media. Win or lose after the game they meet the press sometimes with a smile, sometimes with their heads hung low.
Referees and officials also at times have bad games, not very often in my opinion, but every once in a while it happens and since they are such a big part of the contest they too have to be held accountable.
So let me say basketball officials Tim Gattis, Greg Rennegarbe and Brent Dugas had a bad night in Norfolk, Virginia tonight.
Gattis, Rennegarbe and Dugas refereed the Old Dominion game against UTEP. It ended as expected with the USA Conference leading Minors blowing out the home team 63-49. Coach Tim Floyd’s team is big, athletic and deep. Even without the three players kicked off the team last month after gambling allegations forced the school to report the alleged infractions to the FBI, UTEP is good. Old Dominion is in a rebuilding year and began the game with a surprising 5-3 conference record.
Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones has done a wonderful job in just a few months remaking what had been a decimated team. Jones a former player and head coach at the University of Virginia was a fiery competitor in his younger years, but transformed into a more mature and calculating teacher after a dozen years at American University in Washington, D.C. If I were to guess, I would say he was worth maybe one technical a year.
Jones got his annual “T” just two minutes into tonight’s game.
Gattis, Rennegarbe and Dugas had to be out of breath after this one. They called 52 personal fouls, three technical fouls and a flagrant foul. The calls pretty much evened out on both sides. Although UTEP was clearly the better team, causing ODU to play sloppy basketball, it was also evident the officials called a sloppy game. Gattis has been calling NCAA contests since 1996, he has several NCAA tournament appearances under his belt, so he is no rookie. Rennegarbe and Dugas are veterans too, and normally come and go where nobody knows their name.
I have been covering Old Dominion basketball for 39 years. I have never seen a fan being escorted out of game by police for yelling at an official, until tonight. One was tossed by a referee, and I am not sure what was said. The second was thrown out by an Old Dominion police officer sitting behind the UTEP bench. Not sure what was said there either, or why the officer took it upon his or her self to make that call. Perhaps a re-evaluation of ODU’s “throwing fans out of the building procedure” might be in order.
The bottom line is, the game was out of control from the opening minutes. And it is the responsibility of the referees to not let that happen. We may never know why. Coach Jones knew that with one technical already under his belt a second would most likely lead to a suspension meaning he would not be able to accompany his young team on its road trip to North Texas next week. All he could do was spend the entire game standing in front of his bench with his arms folded and his mouth shut while he glared at the officials.
When players mess up, they are called out and sometimes benched. When coaches mess up they face the music as well. Tonight, Tim Gattis, Greg Rennegarbe and Brent Dugas called one of the worst game I’ve ever seen. They would not face the media like players and coaches do win or lose after every game to explain what happened. Company policy I am sure.
But, like at least two angry fans, they too had to be escorted out of the building by the police. Something that is not supposed to happen on a Saturday night at a Conference USA basketball game.