RACINE - It boiled down to a simple lack of communication that was beyond the control of first-year Park athletic director Jeff Miller or the Racine Unified School District.
That was the finding following an investigation by Unified officials into why there were no officials on a hand for a Southeast Conference high school football game between Park and Case Friday night at Hammes Field. After a 35-minute delay, it was decided that the game, which is Park's homecoming, would be postponed and rescheduled for 6 p.m. Monday.
High school athletic directors are responsible for arranging for officials only for nonconference games. Officials for conference games are arranged by the conference commissioner, which in this case, is SEC commissioner Larry Fell of Burlington.
It is common procedure for officiating crews to be assigned to games about two years in advance of the assignment. The five-man officiating crew for the Park-Case game was assigned in December 2008, but had dissolved since that assignment.
According to Brian Colbert, area superintendent for Unified, the crew chief said he wrote a letter to Fell this summer informing him that the crew was no longer active.
"They said he sent a notification to me, but I have no recollection of receiving a letter," Fell said Monday.
Fell also said the crew in question had been scheduled for only one SEC game this season - the Oct. 1 Park-Case game at Hammes Field.
"The process we're using (for assigning officiating crews), we've been using for years and it's worked very well," Fell said. "This is just one of those unfortunate things that just happened."
The bottom line is the incident will be costly to Unified since fans were offered refunds for the tickets they purchased and told they would be admitted to Monday's rescheduled game for free. There is also the expense of busing Park's team back to Hammes Field, which is located at Case High School, 7345 Washington Ave.
When Colbert was asked what the financial impact will be, he said he wouldn't have that information until later.
"I want to reiterate the fact that Racine athletic directors do not schedule conference games," Colbert said. "They had nothing to do with this process. I really want this to be stated because, especially in Park's case, he (Miller) has been catching a lot of heat for something he had no control over because that's not even his responsibility."
To prevent a similar situation from happening again, Colbert said safeguards have been discussed. Fell noted that reminders are sent out from schools to the officials, but that there's no confirmation response required from the officials.
That's one thing Colbert said Unified is considering changing.
"What we talked about is that Park, Horlick and Case need to be involved by notifying the referee crew or official crew the week of (the event)," Colbert said. "It could be a phone call confirmation or some type of mail that confirms that crew is going to take that assignment the week of.
"We need another system to check to make sure this doesn't happen again. That has not been decided yet, but that is one of the things we've talked about. We've also talked about maybe having a little substitute pool or somebody on call where we could say, ‘Could you be on standby if an emergency comes up?'"
If there's a silver lining, Colbert believes it was the general conduct of everyone affected by Friday's postponement.
"Coaches and players and students and parents had a positive outlook about this," Colbert said. "I talked to both teams and both coaches this morning and they are looking forward to our homecoming game and Monday night football in Racine."