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Lessons in Accountability – From the Bird’s Nest

Sun Belt umpires (L-R) Roger Faulks, Don Hudson and crew chief Bruce Ravan speak at Sundays game between UL and Texas State (photo Brad Kemp/ragincajuns.com)

Here’s a suggestion to Sun Belt umpire Don Hudson, who went out of his way to be the star of the show in Saturday’s game between the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and the Texas State Bobcats.

Don’t do it in a televised game, lest everyone know just how bad your judgement is.

In Saturday’s game, Hudson, the home plate umpire, overturned an eyelash play at first base, did a baseball version of a flop when allegedly contacted by Louisiana head coach Tony Robichaux, ejected him and even told him what his punishment was going to be.

There are two types of umpires.  The best ones are the ones you don’t notice.  The best ones are approachable and understand there are going to be times when a coach comes out of the dugout and it’s not to ask for the umpire’s autograph.  The unapproachable ones love to be the center of attention.  I believe Don Hudson falls into the second category.

Here is the scenario which occurred:

With Texas State leading 7-1 in the top of the fourth inning and a runner on third, Bobcats’ third baseman Trey Hicks hit a slow roller to third, just inside the foul line.  Cajuns’ third baseman Ryan Leonards threw to first and first baseman Chase Compton made a stretch on a less than perfect throw.  First base umpire Roger Faulks, standing less than ten feet away, observed the play and called Hicks out, ruling that Compton’s foot came off the bag after the catch.  Texas State coach Ty Harrington asked Faulks to confer with the other two umpires Hudson was the plate umpire; and crew chief Bruce Ravan,  was umpiring third.

And, here’s where it all went south.

I have had the advantage of seeing a replay about a dozen times…in slow motion.  It’s so close I can’t definitely say one way or the other.  I believe Compton kept contact with the bag, but it was so close I can’t be 100% sure, even with the help of slow motion replay.

But Hudson thought otherwise.  He said the runner needed to be called safe.  I do not know Hudson’s optometrist.  Perhaps the man has HD vision.

Now, let’s make the scenario clearer.  There was a runner at third who was coming home.  Hudson had to make sure the runner touched home plate.  As a result, he had to hold his position as opposed to following the play down the first base line as he would if the bases were empty, which would have given him a much better look.  From home plate, what he saw was something that would not have been overturned if replay was a part of college baseball.  (The ruling on the field stands as called).

Hudson must have been convincing in his argument.  Because Hicks was called safe and the Cajuns, who were already in the dugout, were ordered back onto the field.

Robichaux, as you might expect, came out.  He was less than pleased.  He got the explanation from Faulks as Hudson stood right next to them.  Robichaux then went after Hudson to protest, knowing he was the one who got the call overturned.

During the ensuing argument, Hudson suddenly stepped (jumped) back, pointed to his upper forearm (which was sticking out because he had his mask underneath it) and ejected the coach.  And, according to Dan McDonald, who did the play by play for myKLAF and espn3.com, said “You’re suspended.”  McDonald says the TV mics picked up the sound.

Now, I’ve watched that replay about another dozen times.  From the angle we saw, it is unclear whether Robichaux came in contact with Hudson or not.  (His stomach may have come in contact with Hudson’s left arm, which as I said, was sticking out.) (Robichaux did admit to incidental contact, which according to the new NCAA rule, is grounds for the ejection and suspension.)

The Sun Belt Conference, as well as most other leagues, accepts the umpires report as fact.  If the school is going to protest, the athletic director must ask for a copy of the report, then responds to the accuracy of the report and the league takes it from there.

As I said, this is not an exclusive process to the Sun Belt.

But it is a process that doesn’t come close to covering what we saw on Saturday.

In my opinion, before the NCAA rule was invoked, someone should have double checked to make sure the report of contact was accurate, at least as the question of contact was concerned.   And, all that needed to be done was to ask Tony.

Because Tony doesn’t lie.

In this particular case, it didn’t matter.  The contact (it was a brush) occurred, the ejection was made and the penalty was automatic.

The Cajuns are in the midst of the greatest season in Sun Belt history.  I have to believe the league wants the Cajuns to succeed.  That being the case, there’s something not quite right (again, my opinion) about not double checking before accepting the report and invoking the NCAA rule that leaves a team without its coach for four games.

What if Robichaux had not made contact?  What if this was just a case of an umpire making an ejection and then, pardon the expression, covering his butt by reporting there was contact?

In that case a coach fighting for a national seed gets to miss four games because of some guy’s vendetta.  We would like to think those things don’t happen.  But no one will convince me that no umpire has ever embellished a report in order to cover some things up.

After the ejection, crew chief Ravan got between Robichaux and Hudson and walked Robichaux away from the situation.  They conversed.  The two made contact, more than once.  But Ravan, who is a veteran umpire with good judgment, didn’t suggest the suspension be made eight games because of contact with a second umpire.  Ravan is approachable.

Should Robichaux have been tossed?  If he was verbally abusive and got personal, then perhaps.  But there is no automatic suspension tied to that.  In THAT case, the policy of the Sun Belt Conference makes sense.  Hey, here’s the report.  If you want to dispute it, have your AD contact us.  I have no problem with that.

Later in the game, Hudson warned the Cajuns’ bench for protesting balls and strikes (Hudson had a strike zone the size of Lichtenstein.)  Could there have been a time when he maybe thought, I’m not doing a good job because everyone is fussing at me?

No.  Not those who use Hudson’s type of judgment.

So here’s are my thoughts:

The game was on television.  There is video of everything.  The video showing Robichaux arguing with Hudson is inconclusive as to whether contact had been made.  As I said earlier, Robichaux admits to inadvertently brushing against the umpire.

But the league has the video of the play that started this whole thing.  And, surely they are going to have to agree that call should never have been overturned.  Moreover, we received word on Sunday that the report said there were TWO bumps.  Video will show that  to not be the case.  (Robichaux flatly denies there was a second bump.  I believe him because Tony doesn’t lie.)

And most importantly, will Hudson be held to the same level of accountability that Robichaux was?

Unlike his predecessor, Commissioner Karl Benson has been upfront when it comes to the discipline of officials.  If there’s a penalty for Hudson…and in my opinion there should be, I believe Benson will make that known to us.

Tony Robichaux deserves at least that much.

In the meantime, Hudson needs to make sure that, before he decides to show everyone how powerful an umpire can be, he checks to see if the game is televised.

Because video shows he blew it.  Big time.  And the evidence is irrefutable.

Babes

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