Hartzell at Hilton..right or wrong?

We’ve debated for years whether Rick Hartzell should be officiating Division I men’s basketball games in light of his position as athletic director at Northern Iowa.

He’s no longer at UNI, but continues to wear the stripes at major college games.

Hartzell’s worked Iowa State’s last two ballgames, a win Saturday over Oregon State and Tuesday night’s narrow defeat to Drake. He’s no longer Greg McDermott’s boss, but don’t you have the right to feel like you are at a disadvantage if you’re on the other bench?

It’s human nature.

Especially if McDermott, who was hired by Hartzell at UNI in 2001, is huddling with Hartzell during the game, like coaches often do when referees are stationed next to the sideline or immediately after timeouts are called.

Now, McDermott is as fair and honest as it gets in the coaching business. He doesn’t feel like Hartzell owes him anything.

And Hartzell’s a pro. I don’t believe he’d ever manufacture calls or give ISU the benefit of close calls. That said, he simply shouldn’t be assigned to work Cyclone games. Period.

His ability to affect the outcome of games — in the case of ISU, ones he probably would like to see his good friend win — is reason enough. There’s too much at stake to give anyone the appearance that Hartzell is favoring McDermott’s team. 

If anything, Hartzell is probably trying too hard to prove he’s not favoring his buddy. Same goes for the other officials, trying to prove McDermott and Hartzell are not in cahoots. 

It’s got to be awkward for everybody.

The easy way to solve that?

Have Hartzell stay away from Hilton Coliseum or any other venue Iowa State is playing in. That’s being fair to all parties involved while preserving the integrity of the game.

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