Going the Rounds: Trimble won’t officially rush to judgment over Pac-12 flap

Tyler Trimble is reluctant to offer an opinion on the Pac-12 Conference basketball officiating flap. Perhaps, in part, because the situation is so different that his own.

Ed Rush resigned under fire as the conference’s coordinator of men’s basketball officials last week. That occurred after reports surfaced that Rush had offered conference refs inducements if they had given University of Arizona coach Sean Miller a technical foul or ejected him from a game during the Pac-12 Tournament.

Miller, as it developed, was issued a technical during a critical juncture of Arizona’s tourney loss to UCLA. Rush, a former longtime National Basketball Association ref, later contended he was joking.

Trimble, a Montesano High School graduate who at age 26 is already officiating women’s basketball in two major conferences, seemed inclined to give Rush the benefit of the doubt.

“I think the incident is a little crazy, in my mind,” he said this week. “I think it’s totally possible it was a joke, but things today are so serious that we can’t take a joke lightly any more.”

Yet Trimble finds it hard to relate to the actions in this episode.

“It’s a tough situation because it doesn’t happen on our side at all,” he said.

Trimble, who officiates in the Division I Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences and assorted Northwest Division II and III games, said he seldom has contact with supervisors.

“They rarely come in before a game and you rarely see them until the end of the game, when they give you constructive criticism or feedback on things that happen during the game,” he related.

Pre-game meetings among officials, he added, almost never focus on the behavior of coaches.

“We talk about potential match-ups, potential problems in the game, whether (the teams) have met before,” Trimble said. “Any history that previously arose, we need to take care of and that usually deals with players.”

Trimble said he even takes notes during timeouts on topics that he will discuss with his partners, either at halftime or during subsequent second-half dead-ball situations.

“If we think post play or guard play is too physical, those are things we talk about,” he said.

Trimble, however, prefers to not publicly offer an opinion on the resolution of the Rush incident. College and professional officials are discouraged from speaking to the media on controversial subjects.

He confirms, however, that the perception of bias — which would have been a formidable stumbling block for Pac-12 refs working Arizona games had Rush retained his position — is always an issue with officials.

A former Monte athlete whose father, Tim, is athletic director at his alma mater, Trimble does not work Bulldog games on his rare forays into high school basketball officiating.

“If I choose to work Montesano games, I would have to be 100 percent better because I don’t want the perception that I would be favoring Montesano,” he said. In reality, he said, the opposite would likely be the case.

My own view was that Rush’s departure was the only possible solution. The mystery was why the Pac-12 hired an old-school NBA ref to supervise its officials. College and pro basketball are officiated so differently that it sometimes appears to be two different games.

Trimble, incidentally, closed out his season by being selected to work an NCAA Division II Women’s Tournament Elite Eight game in Texas between Colorado-Mesa and Dowling. He had previously been assigned to the same tourney’s regionals in Bellingham, won by host Western Washington.

Small crowds

For a time, I believed the solution to the Seattle Mariners’ early season struggles might be found in a unique format employed by Harbor-based Class B baseball/softball leagues.

In the past, Class 2B Pacific League and 1B Coastal League teams would play crossover games against each other, with results counting in both leagues.

The dissolution of the Coastal League last winter left the 1B schools as independents. But the 2B clubs, according to Lake Quinault baseball coach/athletic director Keith Samplawski, still have the option of counting games against 1B opponents in the Pacific League standings.

If such a format was adopted in the majors, the M’s could count the results of games pitched by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and regard the other contests as exhibitions. Hernandez’s losses in his last two starts reveal this plan to be something less than foolproof.

Of equal concern to the Mariners is the record low crowds that have witnessed several games during the first home stand.

This hardly ranks as a huge surprise, for several reasons. First and foremost, the M’s haven’t put a winning product on the field for a long time. Historically, they haven’t drawn well at Safeco Field until schools close and the weather warms up during the summer.

Mariner officials committed several public-relations blunders during the off-season. They raised ticket prices when the prudent gesture would have been to offer at least a token discount on some seating until the club’s on-field fortunes improve. Their public opposition to a proposed new basketball/hockey arena near Safeco Field didn’t win many friends, either.

One factor overlooked by many observers is that Seattle has seldom embraced more than a couple of professional franchises at the same time. The peak of Mariner attendance, during the late 1990s and early part of this century, coincided with a downturn in Seahawk and Sonic fortunes.

Although the baseball and soccer clientele tends to be radically different, the Mariners might have capitalized on the Sounders’ early woes had they been able to improve their own product.

But with the Seahawks clearly the hot ticket in town, major league baseball — particularly sub-.500 baseball — is going to be a tough sell in Seattle in the forseeable future.