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Thursday, April 6, 2017

College basketball officiating -- What needs to change? THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE


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? 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? 




  1. Timely topic and some great insight, Paulie. If you ask me, the problem is being consistent. A travel should be a travel all the time, not just on one player or team.

    -- The Real Joe Hill --

  2. Not sure what the answer is but some consistency would be nice. I don't like when the whistles are dictating the flow of the game. Fouls need to be called, but if in doubt, it should be a non call. I don't think adding another ref is the answer, just creates more whistles. A good official basically goes unnoticed. If I take notice of an official, then they are not doing their jobs. One in particular made herself the center of attention with her crazy stretches and warm up out on the court at the ACC tournament. It wasn't a UofL game so I had no dog in the fight, but we all remarked that she would make herself the center of attention during the game. Sure enough, she made a production of certain calls and definitely affected the flow of the game.

    PS - I could never been an official because I like being the center of attention. :p

    1. Gotta agree with Bird Lady. Good refs are unnoticed. Can identify with you being a ref at one time Paulie. I called Optimist BB a few years ago. You never really realize how tough it is until you do it. I found I didn't have the temper constraint to be an effective ref and gave it up.

      Curtis "Get back in the box or I'll 'T' you up" Franklin

    2. Nice. I started t the 5-6 grade level of calling and had some of my most wacky experiences there. Had a parent come out and grab the ball one time and wouldn't return it until I explained a call to him. I think "beverages" were in effect there. There was the "dog on court" incident one time and the classic confrontation with a member of the clergy during a time out. Pretty sure that I'm headed to hades, now...lololol


    3. Funniest I ever saw was in little league baseball when a parent stumbled out onto the field, went to one of the benches, grabbed what turned out to be his son and took him out to the outfield to replace another player. Coach and umps just stood there watching. Parent of "replaced" player then came out of the stands and she took a swing at the other parent and put him on his backside. We were losing it in the stands.

      Nick O.

  3. I think the problem lies not just in college, but in basketball in general. It is the fastest paced sport with subjective calls available at every action. Football has far more rules, but their penalties can be assessed after the fact based on the flags. They also have far more officials. Soccer has the same number of officials, but the pace of calls is far less. Basketball officials segment the floor into zones and are responsible for calls in their area. They can't watch the ball and feet and body of the ball handler while also watching as many as 3 or 4 other people directly in their area. You see centers called for travels all the time just based on the way their shoulders or hips move because the referees assume their feet must have moved as well. I don't know that there is any kind of fix at all levels of basketball, and we'll never really see consistency in officiating based on subjectivity.

    The social media age has increased scrutiny across the board on all things. Pictures and videos circulate the internet across all platforms in a matter of moments and analysis of calls starts immediately. I think if there is a "fix" for college basketball officiating, it is for fans in general to take a deep breath, realize that officials get calls wrong--because they're human and humans make errors--and sometimes the wrong calls dictate the outcome of games. That or get used to 4 hour long games where every judgement call is reviewed.

    1. Very valid points, Mr. Case!


  4. With regard to the possibility of more video reviews....NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO. The calls that receive the most criticism are almost always judgement calls. You could review 20 of that type of call each game and still not satisfy everybody.

  5. I officiated football, baseball and basketball up to the high school level. The easiest was football. Most on the sidelines never knew what was going on, for the most part, and the areas of responsibilities were well defined. The toughest was basketball. It was always personal with at least a few hundred "experts a few feet away. The differences between an infraction or not were more vague in basketball. There are times when a foul needs to be called and it it not clear what that call should be. That is especially true on blocking/charging fouls. I found it amazing that the nastiest reactions and words I ever received were in "church" basketball leagues. I was threatened on a number of occasion after the game. It never got to violence but it was close on a couple of occasions.

    I like Paulie am fairly easy on referees. It is a very difficult job and errors will happen. We need to get over that.

  6. Refs some of the nicest people u meet off court even during games they can crack u up sometimes with what they say during out of bounds and time outs when you going back to the huddle when I played Dee Kanter was always fun to talk with and the brothers forget their name but they look like twins. Worst was Dennis De Mayo everything was a fouls with him

  7. And refs just need to let players play nobody there to watch them work and they should not go huge over small stuff. Saw several games changed by too many calls.


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