By Connor Doyle
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 18, 2002
Class. It's a word that's used quite often in sports, especially when it comes to describing peers. It's a word that's been used with former Arizona assistant coach and current Utah head coach Ron McBride.
But it shouldn't be any more.
After a heartbreaking defeat, it's understandable that a coach is a little agitated when men and women with recorders and notepads get up in their face and ask them what went wrong. Compound that with a game-deciding call that goes against that coach and you can expect fireworks.
"It was a touchdown. Game over," said McBride about Utah wideout Josh Lyman's apparent score-tying catch in the end zone. "It's an impossible call to miss. Everybody in the stadium saw it and everyone on TV saw it. It's embarrassing for the conference. It's the worst (call) I've had in my (37) years of coaching."
And, for the most part, no one blamed McBride for being angry. It did look like it was a catch. So with his objections justified, he should have left it with that. He wouldn't be the first coach to blame officials for a loss, and he certainly wouldn't be the last.
But the next day, McBride apparently woke up and decided he hadn't really made his point yet. He decided the blanket term "officiating" wasn't a specific enough target for his vitriol.
So he then accused referee James Fogltance, a Tucson native and graduate of the UA, of the worst possible crime an official could commit.
"He's a big-time UA guy," McBride said. "He lives there, and has always been a big supporter of theirs. He's a big booster. I don't know what in the hell he's doing, doing the game."
In fact, according to McBride, that call was simply the culmination of a grand plot to steal the game from Utah.
"Every time it seemed like we started to take the momentum away in the game, at every point, (the officials) seemed to make a call that stopped us from doing that. ˇThey're probably laughing about it right now," he said.
There are only a few problems with McBride's contentions. The first is that Fogltance isn't a supporter of the program. Not only has he never given a penny to the Wildcat Club or any other athletic fund, he says he's never even gone to a public team gathering. The closest to an association Fogltance has to the university is the master's degree in education he received over 30 years ago.
Then of course, you have the biggest problem with McBride's comments.
Fogltance didn't make the call.
He was actually about 10 yards away from the play, around the front of the end zone. The call was made by back judge Mike Aaronian. But it was Fogltance who, during an ensuing timeout, went over to McBride and let him say his piece. Then, after the game, he was the recipient of a slew of epithets and profanity from both players and coaches as he jogged off the field. One of the players even went so far as to point at him and then flip him off.
And for all that, Fogltance gets called out in the national media, on the front page of ESPN.com and various other outlets. All of McBride's meritless accusations, printed with impunity.
"My integrity is at stake," Fogltance said. "I've called this game a long time, and I've never been accused ÷ ever ÷ of being a homer. Now, that's not to say I haven't missed calls. I've missed calls, and I've admitted it when I have.
"But I wasn't even the one that made the call."
As for the call, Fogltance said he wasn't allowed, per conference policy, to comment on any specific decisions made during the game. But he did point out that he, like every other referee in the Pac-10 and the NCAA, is under close scrutiny every time he steps on the field. According to Fogltance, every call both made and missed is gone over with a fine-tooth comb.
Which leads to the issue of motive. Why would a guy who loves his job as much as Fogltance, who's been calling football at various levels for over 25 years, put himself in danger of losing his job to give his alma mater a non-conference win? It's not like the Rose Bowl hinged on the outcome.
To make matters worse, the mere accusation from McBride taints the reputation of this man for no reason. Verle Sorgen, coordinator of football officiating for the Pac-10 and Fogltance's boss, said in the 16 years he's been at his post there has never been a single complaint about Fogltance's performance or integrity.
It's inexplicable why McBride would assume that Fogltance had an axe to grind with his team. But that doesn't matter. He either must apologize for or defend his accusations with some actual proof.
And if he chooses to do the latter, he then needs to explain how a referee prevented any of Utah's corners from being closer than five yards away from Bobby Wade and Andrae Thurman all game.
But that couldn't possibly be the reason the Utes lost, could it?