Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Good Job By Register Sports Editor Bryce Miller, Who Dug Deep To Get the Story On Bowl Game Screw-Ups By the Guys Wearing Striped Shirts

An outstanding reporting job was done for today's Des Moines Register by sports editor Bryce Miller, who dug deep into the messes created by game officials in the Outback and Alamo Bowls.

Miller demonstrated some leadership and strong reporting skills by a Register sports editor that haven't been seen since the days of Dave Westphal and Gene Raffensperger.

Miller's opening two paragraphs in a Page 1-A article headlined, "Upon review, call in bowl was bad" read: "Controversial officiating in the Outback and Alamo Bowls, as well as complaints from angry Iowans, have prompted the NCAA to agree to discuss how game officials are selected and evaluated.

"Meanwhile, the coordinator of Conference USA officials admitted that representatives of his conference made an incorrect call Monday on an end-of-game onside kick in Florida's 31-24 Outback victory against Iowa."

Miller has been in charge of the newspaper's sports department for less than a year.

In a column last Feb. 2, I wrote, "The Des Moines Register sports department, which has badly needed some new ideas and new blood, is finally getting a transfusion.

"A shakeup at the top is coming.

"Effective next week, Randy Brubaker will no longer be handling the day-to-day responsibilities in the department. Brubaker will be replaced by Bryce Miller, who has been an assistant sports editor....."

Miller, a former sports editor at the Iowa City Press-Citizen, came to the Register in 1999 an as assistant sports editor. Before that, he worked at the paper on a parttime basis while attending the University of Iowa.

I liked what he did after Iowa's football team got a big-time screwing by the Conference USA officials who were assigned to the Outback Bowl.

The officials had so many bad calls and missed calls throughout the game that the ESPN videotape -- along with the tape of the Michigan-Nebraska Outback Bowl game -- should be used as training films at officiating clinics on how NOT to call games.

ESPN analyst Chris Spielman [pictured on the right] was highly critical of the Conference USA officials the entire game, saying they couldn't keep up with the quickness of the game.

The final insult to Iowa came when the officials called Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway offside on an onside kick the Hawkeyes recovered with 84 seconds left in the game. That call kept the Hawkeyes from trying to stage a rally that might have tied the game.

The calls by a Sun Belt Conference officiating crew in the Alamo Bowl prompted ESPN and ABC announcer Mike Tirico [pictured on the left] to say on the air that it was worst-officiated game he had ever seen.

Well, sure, the officiating was lousy, but so was Tirico's announcing. It was a case of a bush-league announcer calling a crew of officials blind.

Pick your poison.

Anyway, I commend Miller for the work he put in on the officiating story in the paper and on the paper's website. He got worthwile comments from Conference USA, NCAA football, Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby and Alamo Bowl boss Derrick Fox.

Supporting Miller's article in the Register and on its website was a photo from the ESPN telecast that showed Greenway was not offside with 1:24 to play. That photo is reproduced at the top of this column.

Miller was wise to jump into the Outback Bowl controversy. He served as an outstanding model for the rest of the paper's sports staff -- proving he's not reluctant to step up to the plate and provide some hard work on an important story.

It reminded me of when Westphal came into the Register newsroom on a Sunday to do some necessary cleanup work 24 hours after the famous phantom officiating call by Jim Bain in an Iowa-Purdue basketball game at West Lafayette, Ind.

Westphal later became the Register's managing editor.

The kind of support by Miller commands respect in a department, and I'm glad to see it lead to a solid story at a time when newspapers across the country are being criticized for what they're NOT doing.


Meanwhile, don't believe what you read on page 3-A of today's Register.

At least not in the edition that was delivered to my front porch.

The headline said, "Miners' families rejoice: 'They're alive!'

Sad to say, that's not the case.

Three hours after families in West Virginia were told that a dozen miners were found alive, it turned out that all but one had not survived.

The news that the miners were dead obviously came after the Register and many other newspapers published their final morning editions, but the story should have been on the front page of the Register -- not Page 3 -- regardless of whether the miners were alive or dead.