Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hey, NCAA, Fix This, Too

Ben Fishman

    During Tuesday night’s clash between two Big Ten titans on ESPN, the game was at a turning point. The top ranked Indiana Hoosiers had relinquished the lead to #3 Michigan State in East Lansing.
    As Michigan State took its biggest lead of the night, a four point cushion in front of a frenzied crowd, the officials stopped play. The play in question? Apparently Michigan State forward Derrick Nix was trying to get to know Cody Zeller a little better, and referee Tim Valentine quickly blew the whistle. Whatever side you are on as it pertains to who was at fault between Zeller and Nix, I think they both were, you have to see what the stoppage in time did. Sparty was making its run. The Izzone was rocking and the top ranked Hoosiers chances at a Big Ten regular season title were at stake. Then the officials halted play. Their response? No call.
    It was ridiculous really. The officials stopped play here for several minutes just to decide that they couldn’t do anything, when video evidence clearly showed something happened. At the very least somebody should have received a technical or a flagrant foul. But nothing happened, even though earlier in the game the refs awarded a technical foul to Christian Watford for making a routine drive and making contact with his elbow above the shoulders of a Spartan defender. Instead what we got was an obvious stop in momentum.

    This is a prime example of what is wrong in college basketball. I agree, there is no place in basketball for these actions, but we are giving officials way too much power during the course of a game. At seemingly any moment, an official can stop play to check any number of things. They can check if a 3 point basket was a 2, they can check on the clock, they can go back in time on video and call fouls they missed in the first place. Why not wait until the next time out?NCAA officials are what’s bad for the sport right now. I’ll go as far as saying that next to injuries, the officials are having the second worst impact on the game.

    The NBA officials are just that, officials. When the NBA officials are done with their games, they hop on a plane and head to the next city to ref the next game. When NCAA officials are done, they go home. They go to their day jobs. NCAA officials are part time guys, meaning when their not stopping games in pivotal moments, they’re selling you insurance, or they’re working in an office somewhere. That is ridiculous. Let’s say official A comes into your arena. Official A drove six hours to get here. He’s tired. His family wants him home but he knows that when he’s done officiating this game, he has to get back in his car and drive six hours to open up at his real estate firm. Think his head is in the game?

    Now take an NBA official. He’s fresh, he’s ready to ref this game. He saw his family two days ago and gets to see them tomorrow morning when he flies back home. Wouldn’t you rather have this guy? The NCAA needs to fix this. And it’s not just the fact that they’re part time officials.

    The NCAA official has too much control over the pace and the course of a basketball game. During Wednesday night’s game between Kansas and Oklahoma State, the words “Official Review,” were as prevalent on the ESPN telecast as the score at the bottom of the screen.
    How about earlier this season in a game between Arizona and Colorado. The Buffs had just hit what looked to be a game winning three, knocking off Arizona at home and sending them from the ranks of the unbeaten. The refs, obviously, went to go to the monitor to check the last second shot, probably the only thing they get right. If you haven’t seen the still image of this shot go look it up. It went in, and it was clearly out of Sabatino Chen’s hands before time ran off the clock, but the officials said it was no good. And Colorado lost in overtime. Even when they get it right, the officials by rule had to review the play, they get it wrong.

    This isn’t sour grapes by any means. The officials regularly do a good job, but in the recent years we’ve seen several suspensions of officials and several egregious calls by guys who should be working at your local Mercedes Benz store. It’s sad that the NCAA, with its never ending budget can’t hire full time officials. Of course, the NCAA is dealing with the bundling of the Miami case at the moment, so we should cut them some slack while they’re being investigated by themselves.
    But the NCAA needs to do something about this. It’s not this bad in football is it? The stoppages are so prevalent in the sport that it’s becoming ridiculous to sit down and just enjoy a game. When they’re not stopping time, they’re blowing their whistle too much. People pay to see the best players play, not sit on the bench.

    So this is an open plea to the NCAA. When the summer meetings commence in Indy, if you guys haven’t been dragged through the street by Frank Haith and Jim Larranaga yet, set some time aside to address these problems, because they are getting old, very fast. Hey, how ironic.

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