USA Today Sports

Editorial: Oklahoma State's Travis Ford Did Not Deserve Ejection

Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was targeted by an overzealous official Thursday night and did not deserve to be kicked out of the Stillwater High School basketball game at the Bixby Tournament.

Oklahoma State head basketball coach Travis Ford and his team boarded a charter flight in Stillwater around noon Friday that took them to Sioux Falls, S.D., and anywhere but Stillwater and Oklahoma was a better place for Ford to be.

It wasn't the back-to-back non-conference losses to Tulsa and Missouri State, the first time that has happened in 30 years. It wasn't the putrid attendance numbers at home so far this season. No, the latest criticism aimed at Ford came from watching his son's high school basketball game Thursday night in a tournament at Bixby.

The Stillwater Pioneers battled gamely before losing to Bartlesville 63-51 and Ford's son Brooks played well. However, in the third quarter on a play where witnesses said the Stillwater point guard was roughed up and knocked into the wall behind the baseline, Ford yelled to the floor, "Blow your whistle" to the officials. Again, multiple witnesses said Ford was not out of line and that other Pioneer fans were more demonstrative in their criticism of the officiating, but official Rick Smith turned and pointed at Ford and said he needed to leave.

One fan said that Smith had a parting shot, "I'll see you in the postseason." Bixby Athletic director Mark Chambers was quick to catch Ford outside the gym and witnesses and reports have him taking Ford to the tournament hospitality room and then to Chambers' office where it is said Ford asked to speak with Smith and did so after the game. 

I like Travis Ford. Now, I will admit that the marriage of Ford with Oklahoma State basketball has been a rocky one but expectations for OSU basketball have been high and perhaps a little out of whack since the spoiling Cowboy fans had during the Eddie Sutton tenure. Ford has had teams that have struggled and then surfaced only to go under late in the season during Big 12 and NCAA Tournament play.

However, Ford deserved better treatment than he got in his role as a dad supporting a teenage son on Thursday night. What is sad is that big-time college coaches have to go to extremes to stay out of the eagle eye of social media and overzealous fans, theirs and those of rivals.

It has been reported that the official that kicked Ford out of the gym left that very gym wearing multiple OU clothing items. Bedlam gone wrong? It sure might have been. Mike Whaley, OSSAA head of officials and a former standout basketball official himself, said he is seeking reports on the incident and while the OSSAA has no jurisdiction in the regular season tournament like the one in Bixby they do make decisions on which officials work the playoffs, and in the case of unruly fans, who might not be allowed to attend the playoffs. 

My bet is Ford will be there and based on witness accounts Rick Smith might be iffy. I know that when Mike Gundy goes to his son's game, I've seen it, he watches way out of the way and usually with a hat pulled down over his eyes and at summer baseball games with sunglasses on. There's no OSU garb, as he attempts to be pretty incognito. 

Ford may do the same in the future as he did issue an apology through the athletic department on Friday. 

"We have consistent dialogue with our student-athletes about their representation of Oklahoma State University and Cowboy Basketball. The lesson is always that there are no days off from that responsibility. While people can debate whether my comments to a referee during a high school game involving my son warranted being asked to leave the building, as Mike Holder and I discussed this morning, there is no question I should have exercised better judgement in not publicly expressing my feelings. I regret the situation, and apologize for the unfortunate and unwanted distraction it has caused."

So, at the end of the day if you want to blame Travis Ford for losses on the court and struggling play by the Cowboys, that's okay. It's his program and he will step up and accept. While he has accepted with the statement today some blame for Thursday night in Bixby my opinion is it is undeserved and a damn shame a Division I coach can't be a dad like any other father.  

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