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Answers hard to come by in ref debacle

West Side players coaches await word as whether or not they will play Andrean Friday night West Side High School.

West Side players and coaches await word as to whether or not they will play Andrean Friday night at West Side High School. There were no officials for the scheduled game. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 6, 2012 1:56PM



I want to assume it was just an unfortunate error that the officials for the Andrean-West Side game failed to show up Friday.

I want to know there is some reasonable explanation beyond what administrators from Andrean said about why the officials never arrived for the football game between the two schools.

I want to know if a contract was ever delivered to an officiating crew headed by Claude Holifield and if that is why the players were put back on the bus and the sparse crowd was turned away without playing a game on Friday. We can assume it was Holifield’s crew that was supposed to do the game because that is what Andrean coach Phil Mason told us.

I want to know if there was some sort of unfortunate but understandable type of miscommunication between Vanessa Nichols, the athletic director for West Side, and the officials that were supposed to be working the game that caused those officials not to be there.

I want to be assured this mistake won’t happen again, for the sake of the kids

I want to know if the people who paid for a ticket on Friday, but couldn’t attend the game Saturday, have an avenue to pursue a refund. They should have one.

I want this all to be better for the city and the Gary Public School system, which doesn’t need another public relations beat down. The Gary schools have had enough already and they have other more pressing problems to deal with.

I want the West Side and Andrean football players to hear the unfiltered truth about how a mistake of this magnitude was allowed to happen. They deserve that much, along with an apology.

I want to know how the West Side athletic department can tell Andrean administrators on the Monday before the game, when Andrean called to offer help with anything, including making certain that officials were secured, that everything had been handled. I want to know if this is accurate.

I want a procedure in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

I want to know why Nichols can’t speak for herself on this issue. She referred me to public information officer Sarita Stevens when I called and asked what happened. The Post-Tribune covers 37 high schools in Northwest Indiana that play football, and none of them, except in Gary, have athletic directors who can’t speak when an issue of public concern arises. That is part of their job — dealing with the media.

I want to know why Stevens didn’t return my phone call.

I want to know why Darren Washington, the president of the school board, left a voice message on my phone at work Saturday, asking for clarification about what happened with the officials Friday. Shouldn’t he know?

I want to know, if what Andrean athletic director Tim Crnkovich said is true, that most of the contracts between the officials and schools are handled via email and that his experience has been that it is difficult to communicate with the athletic departments in Gary through email. Instead, Andrean calls to deal with house keeping issues. I want to know if this is where a problem could’ve cropped up between the officials and West Side.

I want to know that Gary officials don’t want this incident to just disappear, quietly and quickly, without explanation. That they, too, are invested in answers and they want the problem solved.

I want to know that if a mistake was made, that West Side will own up to it in an honest and forthright fashion.

I want to know that the people in charge of the public school system in Gary are accountable truth seekers who believe in transparency and responsibility, not shirking duty and avoiding the blame. The latter qualities are terrible examples for the kids.

I want to know all this quickly and then move on. It is what’s best for the student athletes.

I just wonder if anybody in Gary out there is listening?

Follow Mike on
Twitter @MikeHuttonPT



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