The $25,000 fine imposed by commissioner Bob Bowlsby upon Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard for suggesting at a post-game press conference that his team was ‘jobbed’ by the referees in Saturday’s 37-20 loss to Oklahoma State at first appears appropriate. But, in light of the startling breadth of Pollard’s clearly unique charge of conference-wide corruption, it is premature.
I’ll admit that Pollard’s post-game claim that ISU had been “jobbed” by the referees made him look the kind of fellow who endlessly fiddles the dial of the funky old floor-model RCA tube radio late at night, confident he’ll pick up from the airwaves the same alien voices he’ll swear to you he’s picked up many times before.
But I’ll argue that Pollard’s charges were not just serious. They were unique, as compared to the occasional but somewhat common post-game coach outbursts about officiating, usually focused upon one or two allegedly bad calls in the game just completed.
As one example, head Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller claimed in an April 2013 post-game press conference, after having been called for a technical foul, that a head referee had instructed his underlings to, in effect, “get” Miller. Miller was fined by the PAC-12, and the referee admitted he’d made inappropriate comments to the referees about Miller to his referees, but insisted they had been “in jest.” The head referee, however, resigned four days later. And, frankly, the ref’s excuse that he was “just kidding” didn’t pass muster: some other refs in the meeting flatly denied that his comments were in any way light-hearted.
Pollard’s claim is much more damning. He claims, apparently, that there has been an 18-month series of decisions, actions and events which were triggered, he cryptically suggests, by a meeting in which Pollard and head coach Rhoads took a position which no other conference member in attendance supported. Pollard claims, then, an ongoing long pattern of unfair behavior by conference referees toward ISU, suggesting that the unfair treatment was both intentional, but also somehow directed toward visiting some retribution — 18 months later — upon ISU. If the evidence later suggests that Pollard’s claim has validity, then the Big 12 and its referees would need to institute wholesale changes.
Bowlsby owes the conference and fans at least some summary investigation. Bowlsby should have announced (and still can) that he has demanded of Pollard (and Rhoads) a complete written accounting of all facts associated with any wrongdoing which they claim occurred, in order that Bowlsby (or someone appointed by Bowlsby) can undertake a thorough investigation which would either support or contradict Pollard’s hard-hitting claim. Bowlsby needs to be able to tell the public that, based upon a good-faith investigation of Pollard’s claim, he has concluded either that there is no basis for it, or that some facts suggest that Pollard’s conspiracy charge was accurate. Until Bowlsby can give the public that kind of assurance, the fine on Pollard is premature.