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MWC officiating needs to improve

Stop me if you've heard this one before:

If the Mountain West Conference wants to be taken seriously, maybe it ought to do something about the quality of its football officiating. It seems like a league game on ESPN or ESPN2 invariably includes some sort of referee miscue that's roundly ridiculed by the announcers.

No, it wasn't written in the wake of last week's Utah-TCU game. I wrote it after last year's Utah-New Mexico and BYU-UNLV games. The unfortunate thing is that it could have been written after what happened last week, what with the missed call on the Horned Frogs' game-winning touchdown. And that was actually just the final entry in a log of referee miscues during the game.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming Utah's loss on the officials. Although I do feel your pain, Ute fans.

(At least "The refs were against us" is a less humorous excuse than "It was hot and humid.")

But the Mountain West continues to hurt itself on national television because of the incompetence of its officials. It remains a subject that sportscasters go on and on about.

Yes, I know that there are mistakes made by officials in every football game. Yes, I know that referees are only human. And, yes, I know that the best way for the Mountain West Conference to get some respect is for its teams to start beating BCS conference teams.

But it certainly doesn't help your cause when your football officiating becomes a running joke. And not just in games involving MWC teams — the Mountain West crew that officiated last year's Houston Bowl (Colorado vs. Texas-El Paso) was roundly and deservedly ridiculed by the ESPN announcers telecasting the game.

When a league is fighting for respect, it has to do better than average. It was true a year ago; it's still true now.

AT THE RISK of repeating myself on yet another subject, it would appear that one Real Salt Lake player didn't learn anything from the TV-related lesson of another a few weeks ago.

You may recall that in mid-August, RSL star Clint Mathis got himself suspended for three games and fined $5,000 when he was caught on camera intentionally injuring a member of Chivas USA's team.

Mathis, at least, did an excellent job of hiding what happened from the TV camera, at least as much as humanly possible. Only by advancing the TV footage frame-by-frame could you see what happened.

However, about the only person who didn't see RSL defender Brian Dunseth whack Roberto Mina in the head during Sunday's game against FC Dallas was the referee at the game. Fans at home were treated to multiple replays of the incident on ESPN2.

And once the league office got a look at the tape, Dunseth was hit with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.

It's so much harder to get away with this stuff when the TV cameras are trained on you.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com