College basketball referees are not the problem for controversial calls, the rules are.
By Bret Walts
The time has come, once again, for college basketball to end. In the offseason there will be questions of who’s going pro and which recruits are going where, but the question everyone could be asking, is what in the world is the NCAA going to do about these officials?
That will be a big question, but not the right one. Officials are part of the game. They are human. They will make mistakes. However, a large part of their mistakes are not of their doing.
Yes, you heard that right.
The lack of clarity in the NCAA rules are what really confuses officials and pushes them to make controversial calls. The referees do not understand some of the rules, neither do the coaches or players or commentators, but one thing is for certain, a call must go one way, which means the other way is unhappy. If only there was a way to end many of the controversial, close calls.
Oh wait. There is. FIX THE RULES! Put more clarity into these rules and end the madness! Somebody is always upset because nobody knows which way the calls should truly go.
Take a look at some of these rules (things defensive players can no longer do):
New “defending rules”:
1. Placing and keeping a hand/forearm on opponent.
2. Putting two hands on opponent.
3. Continually jabbing by placing hand or forearm on opponent.
4. Using an arm bar to impede the progress of the dribbler.
These new rules, placed the refs in an impossible position. Basically, if a player put his or her hand on an offensive player for more than a few seconds, they get called for a foul.
Now come on. I will give the NCAA credit. These rules are clear. However, they are way too strict. If the officials called every one of these fouls, the game would go on FOREVER. Now, if they didn’t, fans wonder whatever happened to following those new rules. These rules put officials in an impossible spot where it is a lose, lose situation.
On to probably the most annoying rule of them all – the flagrant rules.
I don’t know what’s worse, having no clue what the difference between excessive contact is or waiting 15 minutes in the middle of the game for the officials to decide for themselves. Because clearly, they do not have a clue either. Check out the flagrant 1 and 2 rules:
Flagrant 1 personal foul.
A flagrant 1 personal foul is a personal foul that is deemed excessive in nature and/or unnecessary, but is not based solely on the severity of the act. Examples include, but are not limited to:
1. Causing excessive contact with an opponent;
2. Contact that is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball or player, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting;
3. Pushing or holding a player from behind to prevent a score;
4. Fouling a player clearly away from the ball who is not directly involved with the play, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting; and
5. Contact with a player making a throw-in.
6. Illegal contact caused by swinging of an elbow which is deemed
excessive or unnecessary but does not rise to the level of a flagrant 2
Flagrant 2 personal foul.
A flagrant 2 personal foul is a personal foul that involves contact with an opponent that is not only excessive, but also severe or extreme while the ball is live.
Well there you have it. Now how in the world are officials supposed to decipher these cryptic rules? They must determine the difference between severe and excessive. Here’s an idea, tell them exactly what is considered severe extreme, then you won’t have the controversy. Of course, the NCAA does like controversy, they make money off of it. By the way, those rules came directly from the NCAA Rule Book.
Take a look at these plays:
Can you tell if those fouls are common, flagrant 1 or flagrant 2? You could argue the first example should be a flagrant 1 because the rules claim pushing a player from behind to prevent a score is a flagrant 1, but these rules, of course, do not cover the basis of an airborne player pushed from behind.
The second video you have a Syracuse player, slightly pushed from behind by a Duke player, however, you also have a Duke player making a play on the ball. Clearly they were not trying to score, but stop the clock (the final call was a common foul). While the rules say a flagrant 1 is a foul that is not a legitimate play on the ball, could they not just say pushing from behind to stop the clock is a flagrant? Come on NCAA, you can make it easier for the refs and the players.
Now, arguably the most controversial call of them all, the charge-block ruling. To start, in critical final moments of the game, how is this call NOT REVIEWABLE. Come on! Officials can now review the play to determine who last touched the ball before going out of bounds, but they can’t review this? The charge-block foul has just has much merit as the out-of-bounds call, it could mean change in possession and/or free-throws. It truly is a game changing call, but yet, it is not reviewable. That makes zero sense whatsoever.
On to the call itself. These rules may be the worst of them all.
Art. 1. Charging is illegal personal contact by pushing or moving into an opponent’s torso.
Art. 1. Blocking is illegal personal contact that impedes the progress of an opponent.
d. When the opponent with the ball is airborne, the guard shall have attained legal guarding position before the opponent begins his upward motion with his hands/arms to shoot or pass. (Exception: Rule 4-17.7)
I mean really? That is all you have with so many things to consider? You have to consider if the guard is moving or not moving, upright, out of the restricted area, if the shooter puts his or her knee or foot into the guard and whether the offensive player drops his or her shoulder. Oh, and let’s not forget the infamous flop.
Check out these plays:
Pretty controversial calls there. Clearly Jim Boeheim thought so.
Again, at full speed, that is an extremely difficult call to make. The safest call to make is if the defensive player is moving, call the block. However, at critical moments such as these, reviews should be enacted.
These aren’t the only puzzling rules in the book, but they tend to be the most controversial. Hopefully, in due time (note these are the updated 2014-2015 rules), the NCAA can come up with some better rules, and the controversy and the social media rampages can end.