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Was Maryland's Women's Lacrosse Title Tainted? Northwestern Thinks So

Look, I admire the quest to make sure there are as few conflicts of interest with officials as possible. It's a noble cause. But when it gets to the point where it unfairly taints a national champion, that's when I get annoyed. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern, who lost to Maryland in the NCAA women's lacrosse title game, is filing a letter of the NCAA that alleges that official Pat Dillon, who didn't even work the title game, influenced the result of the tournament because of her relationship with Maryland's head athletic trainer. Apparently, Northwestern officials saw Dillon conferring with the game officials before the game and during halftime, and this bothered them.

To this, I say: really, guys? Really?

In the letter, Northwestern's Athletic Director had this to say:

 "There should be no room for suspicion concerning a referee's professionalism, bias and integrity because she has ties to one of the team's schools or a bias against another team.''    

It all sounds like a nice cause to fight. But let's peel this back a second. Here are the facts:

  1. Pat Dillon did not even work the championship game, the only game Northwestern lost in the tournament.
  2. Dillon, despite her Maryland affiliation, is one of the best referees in lacrosse. She's in the Hall of Fame, for Pete's sake! Does it really make sense to not allow one of the best referees in the game to work the Final Four?
  3. Northwestern did not lose the game because of questionable calls. The article discusses one play where a Northwestern game-tying goal was called off, but that's misleading the reader. The truth is, Northwestern had a 6-0 lead and blew it. They have nobody to blame for that but themselves.

All the stuff about her "talking" to officials during halftime is speculation. Officials talk to each other. It happens. Northwestern's brass might be surprised to hear this, but when officials talk, they're usually not planning out some huge conspiracy to screw over Northwestern. 

For the sake of Maryland's players, I really hope this letter doesn't get anywhere. It's really a shame that a complaint like this that relies on a huge logical jump has the potential to take away from Maryland's remarkable accomplishment. 

(Via Darren Rovell).