Over at the Trib, David Haugh has a bit of a news about the Northwestern Women's Lacrosse team (also featured in today's starting lineup). Haugh reports that Northwestern has filed a letter with the NCAA questioning one of the ref's potential conflicts of interest in relation to the recent championship game.
Northwestern lost that game to Maryland, 13-11. This ended their streak of consecutive NCAA championships at five. To some, then, this may look like the protests of a sore loser, but it should not be viewed that way.
I am an unabashed Northwestern fan, and a fan of the NU Women's LAX team in particular. Seeing Northwestern drop the championship hurt. And the idea that the game outcome could have been influenced by a biased ref angers me. But.... I know, that in lacrosse, as with any other sport, there are a multitude of happenings in every close game that determine the eventual outcome.
Maryland and Northwestern were very evenly matched teams. We lost. It happens. I don't want anyone to go and retroactively alter the outcome of that game. Championships with asterisks next to them leave a bitter taste in the mouth. All the same, I think the NCAA should investigate this and, if necessary, implement new procedures to prevent anything like it from happening again, for the good of the sport.
Haugh makes a very insightful analogy when discussing the possibility of bias among NCAA refs. He writes:
If a member of the Duke men's basketball training staff were involved in a relationship with a referee assigned to a Final Four involving the Blue Devils, do you think the NCAA or the other three teams would stand for it given the appearance of potential bias?
This hits the nail on the head. If this type of thing wouldn't be tolerated in NCAA basketball or NCAA football, why tolerate it in lacrosse?
Oh, I know. Lacrosse isn't exactly a revenue sport. Even if it expands tremendously over the next few years, it has a ceiling and can't ever reach the popularity levels of the more traditional college sports.
But, if ESPN can dedicate hours of broadcast time to the College Baseball and College Softball World Series, why not the lacrosse championship game? The women's championship game this year wasn't even really on TV (CBS College Sports, a network even more obscure to home viewers than Versus, does not count). The men's side of things fares a little better (as with any sport), but they have their own problems - namely an unfortunate and unfair association with criminality in the minds of the average college sports fan.
The bottom line is, lacrosse needs to dress for the "job" it wants, not the one it has. If it wants to have the visibility of a bigger sport, it needs to hold itself to the standards of a bigger sport. No exceptions.