Friday, November 19, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Steve Hagwell

Mr. Hagwell is the commissioner of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), and he's at the center of a local controversy this week.

One week ago, after his RPI team lost to Union, a loss that would be avenged the next night, Seth Appert, the Engineers' coach, played a video of a controversial play at the end of the game, in which a potential game-tying goal was waved off by referee Bryan Hicks. Hicks claimed the Union goalie was interfered with. The video evidence presented by Appert seems to say otherwise. It was a heat of the moment situation. As Ed Weaver wrote in today's Record, had Appert waited an hour, he wouldn't have played the tape. Instead, the tape was used as evidence to suspend Appert for 1 game, next Friday night as part of a Thanksgiving weekend tournament.

Pressed to explain the rationale behind the suspension and/or Hicks' judgment, or lack thereof, Hagwell opted to clam up. "No comment", he said, over and over again. It's not the first time that Hicks has screwed RPI in a game against Union, according to Weaver. On February 7, 2009, Union won a game in overtime on a goal that should've been disallowed due to interference on the part of a Union player. Hicks blew that call.

Blown calls happen all the time for one reason or another. But the leagues take a dim view of coaches & players questioning the integrity of their game officials, often issuing fines or, in Appert's case, a suspension. Problem is, by issuing such penalties, the leagues are sweeping a glaring problem right under the rug. Referees and umpires are human, prone to mistakes, and thus must be held accountable for those errors, especially if it affects the outcome of a game.

Weaver is questioning why Hagwell decided to suspend Appert. The only official explanation is that it had to do with the coach's "actions" after the game last Friday. All he did was play a video illustrating a glaring mistake made by a game official with a past history of bad calls against RPI. If that was an offense, why didn't Hagwell, when given a chance to clarify his position, acknowledge it as such? What need is there to cover it up?

In this case, the wrong person is being punished. Bryan Hicks has now screwed RPI at least twice in the space of three seasons. His commissioner is covering for him by suspending Seth Appert, who made the bold move of presenting the evidence in a public forum. RPI, if they so chose, could consider taking action to rectify this problem, but do they risk their standing in the ECAC by doing so?

They say justice is blind. In this case, it shouldn't have to be. Hagwell gets a set of weasel ears for playing see no evil and trying to cover for a referee's bad judgment. If there was ever a need to change the culture of officiating and its relationship with players and coaches in sports across the board, the time is now.

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