Suspending Officials ? A business lesson

Blow a call in a college football game, get suspended right ?

Believe or not, wrong. its the wrong thing to do, but its not a suprise. Not at all.

There is a reason why there is so much secrecy around officiating in college football and basketball; to protect the people doing the hiring. If you dont have to worry about scrutiny, why not throw the people you hired under the bus ? Or if you can, just lie about the entire situation and tell everyone it was the right call, or say nothing at all so all the suspicion falls on the game’s officials.

In the Oklahoma game, the officials got it wrong according to statements from their bosses, and of course the many Tivo replays. Of course the bosses conveniently left out that the replay official wasnt provided all the angles that TV viewers saw, or that the equipment dosnt provide for freeze frame. Freeze frame is what, a $99 dollar software upgrade ?.

Conveniently leaving out key information that would change the public’s expectation of the person actually doing the job is one quick and easy way for management to throw their employees under the bus. Which is exactly what happened here.The result was the suspended replay official being harassed and threatened and suffering physical repurcussions.

His boss should be suspended or fired for not having the balls to take the blame and redirect the public outcry to him/herself.

Thats a huge business lesson to anyone who manages professionals who have to deal with public scrutiny.

Oklahoma fans suggested it was a conspiracy by the Pac 10. The Pac 10 said nothing. When you hear such inflammatory comments without response, its never the work force with the problem, its management. Just ask any PR firm that specializes in crisis management.

When you see problems on a repetitive basis in any profession, the first place to look isnt the people on the job, its the people managing the people on the job.

Should it really matter which conference an official comes from when he/she is selected for a game ? Of course not. Most officials will call a game fairly. But how exactly is “fair” defined ?

From what i can see “fair” in all sports is a little bit different from manager to manager or conference to conference. The only certainty is that officials will do what all employees do, they will strive to make their bosses happy. They will do what it takes to keep their jobs and train to get promoted.

There are a lot of judgement calls in every game, in every sport, in any business. How any given judgement call is evaluated is purely a function of how the employee is managed. Call it mechanics, and those mechanics differ from conference to conference in every college sport. Getting assignments comes down to making the guy/girl in charge happy. As in any business, that always comes first, even at the expense of what fans may consider “fair” or even accurate. You may not believe it. But it happens. All the time.

Who hasnt been in a position where the boss wants to prove who is in charge, facts be damned ? Talk to officials at any level about different calls. You will here the same phrase repeated all the time. “this is the way they want me to call it “, or “they dont want us to call that”

What a great management lesson.

The job of management is to hire the best possible people for a position and put them in a position to succeed. Which means that the hiring process has to be strong. It means the recruiting and training process has to be strong. A workforce of professionals has to have bench strength. There have to be well trained individuals ready to take the place of those who quit, retire, or cant meet the standards of the organization.

It means communication has to be strong so that employees and management can have give and take and work to improve the organiztion and profession. It means the evaluation process has to be strong. Its not simply a matter of tracking statistics as a Pac 10 official said would happen going forward. Statistics are worthless if management doesnt understand how to use them as part of a bigger goal. Managers need to be able to communicate with each employee about their individual needs and design programs to help them improve, or make a change if they cant meet those expecations. And finally, management needs to be open to communications with the outside world as a means of developing strong relationships with its customers and garnering ideas and suggestions that independent eyes and ears offer that might improve the quality of performance.

Thats good business.

Its not what we have seen from the conferences that have been involved with controversies. Of if its there, they certainly havent communicated it to their customers and to their employees that i have communicated with.

In an industry as big and public as collegiate sports, thats a huge mistake. It also leads to some basic qustions.

Why are officials hired and assigned by conference rather than a national organization ? Isnt the current system a formula for lack of consistency and public mistrust ? is resistance by conferences to a single entity for officials just a confirmation of management over quality of work ?

Why are hiring practices and programs not publicized ? Dont they want to attract the best and the brightest officials ? Shouldnt the same professional interviewing , work analysis and hiring techniques applied to other professions be applied by the NCAA to their officials ?

Hey Im just a college football and basketball fan, but sometimes the lack of business 101 principles that any of their business schools teach is worse than glaring and there is no better time than now to make changes.

Or they can wait till the next official who makes a mistake is thrown under the bus and suffers the personal consequences. They wouldnt do that to other professionals under their hire, why do that do that to officials ?

What type of training do the officials receive during the summer and season ? Is it a fulltime focus during the offseason and off days, or is it a camp for a couple days ? I realize that for some this is a weekend occupation while they work other jobs, but given that some with a full schedule, particularly in basketball can make more than 150k per season, I think its a reasonable question for fans to ask if the officials their teams count on are fully trained.

40 thoughts on “Suspending Officials ? A business lesson

  1. I followed your link from the Mark Joyner forum and am pleasantly pleased to announce that I have fired my boss!

    Comment by Doug Barger -

  2. Very good and great site with very good look and perfect information…i like it.

    Comment by gry -

  3. MARK,

    FYI, THE NAME MARK MEANS WARRIOR. IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING. I DIDN’T KNOW THAT THE NBA HAD ANY BALLS!!! J/K REAL MEN PLAY TENNIS. THAT WAS MY SPORT OF CHOICE. MAYBE BECAUSE I’M ONLY 5’8. ANYWAYS, I HAVE A REALLY COOL IDEA THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL OF MAKING LOTS OF MONEY.

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    Comment by SAMUEL LEOS -

  4. BUT IT SHOULD BE. This is not a desk job, and frankly, some of the referees I see out there are too old for one. There should be a review process like there is in many jobs where heads will roll if calls are blown. In the case of the Oklahoma game, I think the only problem is, not enough people’s jobs are gone. Not only should the official be suspeneded (and hopefully spending his time to freshen up on the replay booth technology), but his boss should be fired. Not the right replay angle? No pause feature? Give me a break. Like Mark said, welcome to the 2000’s, even VCR’s have a pause button. That’s the fault of the officials boss, not his.

    Comment by Christian Ter -

  5. Mark, I completely agree with your comments regarding the structure of the current system and several of the inadequacies therein.

    I’d like to touch on the Oklahoma vs. Oregon game in a different light. Why is everyone crying so hard?

    As a former athlete, you learn to accept most games as a whole of decisions that helped arrive at an outcome. People have a tendency to blame the buzzer shot or whatever the final conceivable chance play may be.

    The fact is, Oklahoma gave the game away on a silver platter to Oregon. Even after the missed onside kick call, Oklahoma’s special teams couldn’t get it done and Oregon blocked the field goal.

    There are a variety of ‘shatter points’ in the game, and I think it’s funny that people focus on the missed onside-kick call and an even greater tragedy that athletes, coaches and administrative types are whining so viciously over the one and only thing that was out of their own control.

    I guess we should all half-expect to see this out of an Oklahoma program that has been a BCS queen spinning out of control since giving us the worst national championship game to watch in many a long year when they were thumped by USC.

    Maybe we’ll even see Ashley Simpson blame the PAC-10 officials for her horrible performance at the half-time show for that championship game too.

    Comment by CWA -

  6. Well any one who learns from their mistakes is much more and valuable to an organization, than a person who didn’t make a mistake yet.

    Pratice makes perfect.

    EXperience is much valueable.

    Haroon

    Comment by Haroon Naseem -

  7. I think Stephanie (post #10) made some outstanding arguments.

    Here’s mine:
    It’s theoretially possible that the refs on the field simply blew the call badly… but by mistake! As for Gordon Riese, the same cannot be said. There were no technical glitches, and there was no “mistake”. His (likely permanent) leave of absence had more to do with the conference IMPOSING it than anything else. Here’s a quote from the Pac-10 Commissioner. Notice how he already refers to Riese in the past tense… “Gordon Riese had a distinguished 28-year career as a Pac-10 official and, with the exception of Saturday, had done a fine job as a replay official,” Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said.

    Oh yeah, one more thing about Gordo. It looks like he also lied on his resume. Check out his listing in the Portland State Hall of Fame:
    http://goviks.com/images/hfgordon_riese.jpg

    Notice that he claims to have played for the Kansas City Royals. When in reality, he never even played in the major leagues!
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/r/ra-ri.shtml

    oh what a tangled web he weave…

    Comment by James -

  8. I couldn’t agree more, great post. Too often the managers pass the buck.

    Comment by maddux sports -

  9. Yes, people make mistakes, but there are mistakes and then there are MISTAKES, where someone does something really, really dumb and there is really no excuse. Yes, the replay official’s boss should be reprimanded, but it is also correct to reprimand/suspend the actual official who did a crappy job and did not just make a minor human error.

    Comment by TClo -

  10. I agree with nearly everything you wrote, but there’s one very simple idea that you don’t seem to want to recognize: people make mistakes, and it’s a part of life. Whether you’re a ref in high school or the pros, whether you’re a painter, or an accountant…people make mistakes. Now, college and professional refs are open to lots of criticism because their jobs are so high profile.

    Also remember that most people’s jobs allow them to do something, review it, have someone else look at it, then they review it again, etc. Refs have to make decisions on high-speed action, where they are often shielded from the action (sometimes their own fault, sometimes not). But again, they are making split-second decisions.

    But having said all that: you are right, management (supervisors) have to take action when someone has not done their job properly.

    You’re much more emotionally (and financially) connected to this issue. Obviously, I don’t own a sports team. But I have played and coached, so I know the heartache and frustration of bad refs, and bad calls, and no repercussions for those.

    Comment by Pat -

  11. I think this is mistaked management. No one must be suspended for a minor reasons

    Comment by Katrin -

  12. Just because Mark loves Trump..

    http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/CompanyFocus/TrumpYoureFired.aspx?GT1=8579&wa=wsignin1.0

    Comment by PSC -

  13. Peter nice blog! Thanks!

    Comment by Oliver -

  14. Great showing on Donnie Deutsch tonight. It was like seeing you shoot it with one of your boys from Pittsburgh or IU. I’ll be blogging about it soon at http://www.urbaneola.com.

    Comment by Michael -

  15. Saw you on CNBC tonite…really motivated me…you’re a lot like me, only you have billions and billions more =)

    gem-x

    Comment by gem-x -

  16. I think you are correct with your discussion of business 101.

    But.. I have to say you are wrong with the blown calls. There were several calls that were blown by the officials… And its not just the “replay guy” that should have been thrown under the bus.

    1- The ball was tipped prior to 10 yards.
    The refs on the field KNEW the kick was coming.. this wasnt a freakin secret. The refs on the field should have seen the ball touched early. Hell i knew it before it was even in question. I kept asking, “where is the flag?”…”why isnt that a flag?”

    2- The ball was recovered by Oklahoma. What the hell happened there? You can see the player walking around with the freakin ball. After realizing there wasnt a flag I kept saying, “its okay, its oklahoma’s ball anyhow”… “its oklahoma’s ball anyhow…”

    3- What about the tipped ball on the PI call? No matter what angle you look at, you can see the ball change direction.

    No.. I dont blame the review ref nearly as much as the refs on the field.. absolutely horrible.

    Unfortunately, they aren’t the ones that I blame the most.

    Stoops with his coaching staff is 100% to blame. They get the ball in field goal range with 30 seconds and what does he do… Run to the right…

    What the hell?

    Run off 25 seconds and barely get off the kick?

    Absolutely horrible play calling.

    This along with the pass thrown short in the LSU game are the reason why LSU and Oklahoma lost. Not the bad calls. Bad calls even out.

    Good teams win games.

    Great teams can overcome bad calls to win games.

    Both teams had a chance to right the wrongs of the refs and neither did. Thats why they lost.

    Comment by Kris -

  17. I am sure Mr. Cuban is privy to much more information than I am; however, it is a bit hard to take that a replay official does not have the same video that millions of TV viewers have. In fact, it is so hard to take that I question it. I believe the official have the same replays anyone else has. If true, the officials may not have been swept under the bus quite as bad as Mr. Cuban would have us believe. It is possible the official did, in fact, blow the call and management had nothing to do with it.

    Comment by Alan White -

  18. I’m a huge fan of sports, whether it be college basketball, football, or even my Mavs. But you have a valid point in stating that having the officials train for than just a “couple” of days makes more sense than continuing this cycle of unfair calls. The officials have just as an important job as the players do, if anything there’s more pressure. What with angry fans screaming at you, you had better hope to make the right call. But then again, your boss is the one that signs your check, so maybe it’s not necessarily whats “fair” but what motivates the employee AND OR official to make the “right” call. Maybe that’s not the situation in every case but the majority rules.
    It’s gonna be a great Mavs season in any case and I can’t wait for November 2nd…

    Comment by Claudia -

  19. Mark:

    As for why there isn’t a centralized authority for officiating in D1, I do think there are solid reasons for that. It doesn’t take much to see the management problems the NCAA has: it is a mish-mash of all kinds of institutional actors from hundreds of schools (committees, staff groups, school presidents, coaches, athletic directors, and so on and so on). It is a common criticism (and probably an inevitability) that the NCAA as an institution is somewhat distant or removed from the actual concerns of many individual people who are affected by its policies. Moreover, it doesn’t schedule any games or organize any kind of season.

    On the other hand, the Conferences, even if they face similar sorts of problems, face them on a much smaller scale: big conferences have 12-16 schools. Moreover, they’re the ones putting on the games, awarding championships, etc. To me, at least, it makes sense that the Conferences do the hiring and evaluating for officials, because they are more directly affected, and it is good for the officials to be more directly responsive to, their needs.

    Which is not to undercut any other part of a strong post.

    Comment by Adam -

  20. Why aren’t officials hired by the NCAA instead of conferences? Simple. There’s no money in it. In every decision it handles – eligibility, TV rights, playoffs, the rights of athletes to enjoy benefits other students have – the NCAA will always come down on the side of money. And then it has the hypocritical gall to push its student-athlete propaganda on us at all times.

    Comment by Ray Barrington -

  21. Great post — I couldn’t agree more.

    Good managers put their workers in a position to succeed. When success occurs, they give credit to the workes. When failures happen, they should shoulder the blames themselves instead of passing it on to the worker.

    Comment by JJ -

  22. I agree, that whenever there is a problem in any business, it is always the system that is really to blame. Whether it’s the hiring system, for hiring someone incompetent or the training system, or the feedback cycle for not providing a method of continual improvement.

    Comment by Jonno -

  23. You seem to have an aversion to the mandatory apostrophe.

    Comment by Fred Silva -

  24. There should be a review process like there is in many jobs where heads will roll if calls are blown. In the case of the Oklahoma game, I think the only problem is, not enough people’s jobs are gone. Not only should the official be suspeneded (and hopefully spending his time to freshen up on the replay booth technology), but his boss should be fired. Not the right replay angle? No pause feature?

    Comment by woaicn -

  25. Such mistakes from club managers are endless, the question would be there any appropriate action from the board or not.

    Comment by Mag -

  26. Thanks for This article..

    welcome to my blog!
    http://www.hotproductsreview.net

    Comment by peter -

  27. Hi, I just want to tell you this if you are a blogstar maybe you can make a better design of your weblog, is just an opinion, Go Mavericks!!! we want back Eduardo Najera in your team !!!!

    Comment by Prismatico -

  28. As a PR Major, I’ve been taught to not only throw people under the bus, but to push them into the ground first. Then take their wallet before the cops come.

    But seriously, officiating is not a flawless process. BUT IT SHOULD BE. This is not a desk job, and frankly, some of the referees I see out there are too old for one. There should be a review process like there is in many jobs where heads will roll if calls are blown. In the case of the Oklahoma game, I think the only problem is, not enough people’s jobs are gone. Not only should the official be suspeneded (and hopefully spending his time to freshen up on the replay booth technology), but his boss should be fired. Not the right replay angle? No pause feature? Give me a break. Like Mark said, welcome to the 2000’s, even VCR’s have a pause button. That’s the fault of the officials boss, not his.

    Way to go Pac – 10, you’ve blown one of the best inter-conference games Oregon has had in a long time. Strength of schedule should be great when this matchup contract expires.

    Comment by Joah -

  29. Mr. Cuban, that was brilliant and timely.

    Comment by Redmond -

  30. I agree that hiring is an overlooked process. I find that 90% of applicants can be screened out before they ever walk in the door based on their resume and cover letter.

    Comment by Miley Cyrus -

  31. Mark, I certainly agree with you about the lack of integrity or responsibility in the conference offices. Officiating has long been an insider network and knowing your job wasn’t as important as knowing the right people. Coaches and players are constantly held accountable for their errors in the game but officials have had no repercussions until now.

    As for Riese not deserving the blame, however, you are wrong on that one. There are several versions to this story, depending on what Riese has to refute.
    1)In his “poor little me” interview Riese said he only had one “frame” that was hard to see and inconclusive so he couldn’t make a ruling. Also, he was being pressured from the field to make a call so didn’t have time to look at it well. Yet, the field official stated there was conclusive video evidence that the receiving team touched the ball and therefore it was Oregon first down. Already someone lied – either Riese when he said it was conclusive yet he couldn’t see anything, the field official when he made up his own review call because Riese couldn’t make one, or Riese again in the interview to gain more sympathy.
    2) Per the ABC technician, the booth was provided all the replays seen on tv and they were logged as properly received by the equipment. This is supported by the Pac-10 commissioner’s original statement that Riese had “ample views” to get the call right. The network had no problem with the late decision as it was good drama and there was enough time before the next game started. Also, Riese called down to the ABC truck during the review asking how to work the equipment, i.e. to fast forward, reverse, and freeze frame. This wasn’t the first time a call had been reviewed in the game, let alone the season. He was even able to pinpoint the yard line a receiver went out of bounds in one play. Why did he suddenly not know how to operate it the equipment? And what happened to the replay technician in the booth (who is assigned by the member institution, Oregon, per Pac-10 review procedures) who is there specifically for instances like this?
    3) In the latest stories in The Oregonian, it’s back to the “only one view” line but this time that view is the one from the Autzen stadium video feed just as it was seen on the scoreboards. But again according to the ABC truck, they were told earlier in the game that this feed was no longer working in the booth and that the ABC cameras were all the replay officials would have to use for review now. Guess during that specific play at the end of the game, the feeds magically switched.

    The conference management certainly has culpability here but please, let’s not declare Riese innocent and victimized just because he puts on a pitiful old man act for the media. If the truth ever gets told about what went on in that booth and over the line to the field official, this will look bad for all of them. It wasn’t errors, blown calls, or failed technology that led to this debacle, but concious human decisions to make the wrong call for the wrong reasons.

    Comment by Stephanie -

  32. in the age of tivo, these officials have a much harder job. back in the day, instant replay wasn’t even around – now millions of fans can instant replay as much as they want.

    Comment by coupon man -

  33. “Couldn’t have said it better! More often than not, bosses have less expertise than the people they manage.”

    Try finding 5 bosses that have more expertise than their employees!!!! I guess Cuban has more expertise than any of his players…..

    Comment by jray -

  34. “Of course the bosses conveniently left out that the replay official wasnt provided all the angles that TV viewers saw, or that the equipment dosnt provide for freeze frame. Freeze frame is what, a $99 dollar software upgrade?.”

    Couldn’t have said it better! More often than not, bosses have less expertise than the people they manage.

    Comment by fast eddie -

  35. Hey Mark. Good article on basic integrity or lack thereof. Something very seldom seen in business any more. It seems like the higher up you go in the food chain the less responsibility is acknowledged unless of course everything is going well. It has created a system of “find the queen” when some one higher up has to acknowledge a mistake and as someone said earlier. Expertise is acknowledging and learning from past mistakes, If you never make mistakes and anyone that has swung a golf club knows, you never really get better at your craft.Its a tough way to learn but its usually the way that best sticks in your mind. I bet there are alot of people out there that know how to cut shrink wrapped items open with out bleeding now too.🙂 Thnanks for the thoughts.

    Comment by Frankie from Lawnside -

  36. any person that learns from his/her mistakes is much more valuable to an organization, than a person who didn’t make a mistake yet.

    Comment by bobby -

  37. Yeah, saying nothing during a crisis and while under public scrutiny is like saying, “I’m guilty and I dont know what to do. So, I’ll just hide until it all goes away cause I don’t have the balls to deal with it.” No pun intended. Actually, the pun was stragetically planned and executed.

    Comment by strategy -

  38. Reports say the official had all the replays that were available on TV and that is standard. In a situation this blatant, you have no choice but to suspend the official. And firing his boss is just insane….should you be “fired” if Dirk accidently calls a timeout when your team has none and you lose the game because of it…of course not. Each person has to be held accountable for their own actions.

    Comment by Wes -

  39. Great points about management and responsibility. Sometimes we’re so hung up on blame we forget about backing the guy in the trenches. An organization, whether a sports league or any other business, has invested time and money finding and training its workers. Firing them for your mistakes, or even just driving them away by hanging them out to dry, is a waste.

    Watch NFL Total Access (NFL Network) on Wednesday nights during the season. Mike Periera, Director of Officiating comes on and discusses unusual/controversial calls from that week. While there may have been calls that have been deliberately avoided, he never throws his guys under the bus. Just about every answer comes down to ‘this is what they called based on what we told them to call’ (and it doesn’t change from week to week, either). Sure, the NFL has been known to “apologize” to teams for occasional blown calls, but the ref in question is not left swinging in the wind, and updated guidelines are prominently sent out to all the crews immediately. I know all the pro sports try to keep their officials as well-trained and directed as possible, but the NFL actually puts their mouth where their money is…

    Comment by Llarry Amrose -

  40. I’m not so sure about the “not having all the angles” business. The ABC crew has denied that quite loudly and even insinuated that the official didn’t know how to operate the equipment (which IS the bosses fault though).

    Comment by W. Paul Franks -

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