Thursday, April 6, 2017
College basketball officiating -- What needs to change? THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
THE PEOPLE WITH THE WHISTLES
Being a college basketball official is not an easy thing. You have anywhere from 500 to 20,000 people watching and critiquing your every move. A call you make is going to get different reactions. In addition to keeping up with the game flow, you usually have a couple of coaches in your ear pleading for their viewpoint on the action, players who win academy-award performances for their reactions to calls, a home-fan base that thinks they know the game better than you, a visiting fan base which is 100% sure that you're calling the game in the home team's favor and an observer sitting on press row watching each play and making notes to grade you.
And, then there are the announcers that relay the action via radio and television. One word from them can start a thousand reactions. And, they don't get fined if they speak out.
When I was a little boy, I would listen to UofL men's games on the radio with my father. UofL had a delightfully wacky, very-opinionated, sometimes-accurate and quite entertaining play-by-play announcer called Ed Kallay. "Uncle Ed" was a referee-antagonist from the get-go. I remember a game (although I can't recall the opponent) where, on the air, he started calling out the ref who was standing next to him during a time stoppage. It wasn't pretty, either. The ref finally responded, and you could hear it over the air:
"OK. Ed. That's enough. I'm coming over to your station and criticize everything you do at work. On the air. How would you like that?"
Ed was quick in his response.
"I know I'm horrible. I realize that. The problem is you haven't realized yet that you're horrible."
I officiated. I called multiple sports and basketball was the toughest. Maybe because of that, I am a lot more lenient on officials than the average fan. Although my refereeing was not on a national stage...far from it, for sure...I've been faced with the charge/blocking decision, touch fouls by the guards and crazy mayhem that goes on under the basket. Still, even I raise a quizzical eyebrow on the consistency, accuracy and frequency of calls occasionally. I'm sure that fans and coaches questioned calls I made. I can only tell you that, as an official, you try to make the best call possible based on the rules of the game and those calls are not popular sometimes. You develop a thick skin. You listen to a screaming coach and try to be attentive while still following the action and just reiterate the reason for the call (or no-call) in association with and how it relates to the rules of the game.
Did I ever miss a call? Sure, I did. Did I ever call a "make up call" to counter it. No, I didn't. Could a coach influence me with continual haranguing? No. Unless it got obscene or defamatory toward family. Then, they got the "T".
You work with your crew in a game. You are a unit. And, you back your unit's decision unless you saw something that they didn't and you talk and decide whether to circumvent a call or not. I remember a high school game, many years ago, where it seemed any call we made against the home team got a ballistic reaction from the home crowd. As the game neared it's end, one of my crew members sidled up to me and commented:
"I hope they [the fans] aren't waiting for us when we leave."
Fortunately, the home team got hot from the floor and pulled away to a sizable victory. We left without incident and our cars were fine when we got to where we parked. Unfortunately, there were times when that wasn't the case.
Officiating is under intense scrutiny as of late. The UK fans threatening the life and safety of an official who called their final game in the NCAA tournament. The officiating in the men's championship game Monday night. I heard it all season long while watching UofL women's basketball from press row. I've gotten to know a few of the regulars that call UofL WBB. Nice folks off the court and just like us...with their passions, interests, sense of humor, kindness and professionalism.
But...there are times when I've wondered...
"What was (fill in the name) thinking on that call?"
So, what does college basketball do about it? Do they need to do anything about it?
Where do they start to make games about the players and not the whistles? Is it a case of more reviews on the monitor at the scorers table ? People seem to hate those delays that can take 2-3 minutes at times. Do they lighten up on the whistle so that the flow and consistency of the game doesn't evaporate? Do they add another official to the action, so that scrutiny and observation is even more intensified? Or...is the current system OK and it's just a losing fan's reaction to blame the refs when their team loses.
Our area of the nation is basketball crazy. Has been for a long time. I'd wager the fans that attend a UofL men's or women's game...yes, I'll even add a UK game...have more basic knowledge of the game than the fans who go to watch college games in Nebraska or Idaho. (No offense to those two states intended).
So, let's here from you...the fan. Or you, the player or coach. What is the state of college basketball officiating. How does it get better? Can it change?