ARTICLE OF THE DAY

An Unconscionable Act
by Brian North
1/26/06

Just when you think you've seen it all in sports, something new comes up that just boggles the mind. Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama a scary incident turned into an absurdity.

University of Houston basketball coach Tom Penders collapsed during the Cougars game against UAB. There was less than a minute to go until halftime when the coach fell to his knees seconds after a foul was called on one of his players. The referees called Penders for a technical foul, apparently thinking he was reacting to the call. But Penders didn't get up and the game was stopped. The crowd fell silent as Penders was carried off the floor on a stretcher. He was given oxygen and was able to return to coach the second half.

Penders suffers from a heart condition and blamed it on his frightening collapse. But maybe its the referees who need to have their hearts checked. The technical they called on Penders was never taken away, and the Blazers were given two bonus free throws. Houston lost the game 82-79 and you can't help but wonder if the outcome would have been different without the free points (Squeaky Johnson made both technical free throws).

First of all, how can you give a technical foul to a coach who lost consciousness? I understand the initial reaction by the officials, but once Penders needed help, you would think the zebra's would re-think their position. I can't imagine Penders would have done such an elaborate acting job just to get out of the technical foul.

I have done a little officiating in my time, and it's a thankless job.  Every call you make is met by opposition from half the people in the gym. The men and women in pinstripes are taught to uphold the rules of the game using the best judgement possible. Officials are also taught to be an authority figure and uphold the integrity of the game. In other words, don't let a player or coach show you up or be disrespectful. If they do, you "T" them up.

But I can't believe three adults would continue to administer a technical foul to a person whose health is in question. Coach K didn't get a technical when he collapsed during a Duke game last year. And what about a player who collapses on the court with a serious medical condition after an official blows his whistle? Some refs take the bravado thing a little too far and should be reprimanded for doing so especially when it is not warranted.

I feel like common sense is becoming less and less common in our country (don't get me started on stupid human behavior in our society, this article would turn into a novel). Just do to others as you would have done to you. Would any of those officials given themselves a technical if it was them laying unconscious on the floor? I don't think so, and that's the point. Put yourself in another's position before making judgement.  In the officials case, they acted unconscionably.

Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com