When the Mountain West and Pac-12 announced last year that they would enter into an officiating alliance, one of the goals was to improve uniformity between the leagues when it came to how games were called. Tuesday the leagues announced that they’ve taken another step in this direction when it comes to basketball in the western United States, with the Big West, WAC and WCC joining the alliance.
As a result of this move, five of the six conferences in which most of (if not all) of their members are located in the western United States are part of this alliance with the Big Sky being the lone exception. According to the release, Bobby Dibler will preside over the alliance as the officiating coordinator.
A major focus of the expanded alliance will be training. Prior to the season, Dibler and staff will host a training clinic for all roster officials to review mechanics, game situations, rules knowledge and other key factors to ensure they are among the best trained in the country. Officials from all five of the conferences will participate, furthering the impact of the collaboration on officiating in the western United States.
With the changes occurring within college basketball, including the move to a 30-second shot clock and increased calls to do a better job of allowing freedom of movement, expanding the alliance isn’t a bad idea at all. Of course this hinges on officials not only being consistent with calls but sticking to it the new initiatives throughout the year.
A couple years ago when there was a move to improve freedom of movement, complaints about the length of games eventually led to a return to things being let go by the time conference play rolled around. There will be complaints, especially in games deemed to be “whistle-fests,” but that’s something people will have to deal with as officials and the rules committee look to do things that will improve offensive production.
Monitoring physicality as important as the shot clock in increasing offensive production
With the men’s college basketball rules committee proposing a host of changes in hopes of increasing scoring earlier this month, the move that attracted the most attention was their recommendation to trim the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. However, while having five fewer seconds to attempt a shot does increase the likelihood of more possessions in a game it doesn’t not guarantee more points on the scoreboard.
One coach who isn’t in favor of the move is Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, who discussed the matter with Brian Howell of the Boulder Daily Camera. Boyle also touched on another key in college basketball, which in recent years has been decried as being too physical by some. If people want to see more points scored, ensuring that freedom of movement initiatives are not only enacted but enforced by officials needs to occur as well.
“No, I think it’s a very exciting game. If they want to increase scoring, they just have to take away the physical play and the game has to be officiated differently and it has to be officiated more consistently. You could make an argument that the college game is more physical than the pro game, because of the way it’s officiated and what you’re allowed to get away with and what you’re not. The defensive rules that the NBA has put in place, if we ever get to that, that’s when you’re going to see scoring really take off.”
The fact that the rules committee is looking to make improvements is a good thing, even if some don’t agree with the measures they’ve proposed. But if there’s to be any lasting impact, consistent officiating in regards to the physicality of the game is key.
While some conferences are sticklers for “strategies” such as bumping cutters, others aren’t as strict in enforcing freedom of movement. It should be noted that in college basketball, officials are essentially independent contractors who can be work for any conference that asks them to work games, which is why some have schedules that result in them calling five or six games in a week.
There have been attempts to make sure that officiating is more consistent across the country, but with a setup unlike that of the NBA (unionized officials, and there are only 30 teams as opposed to 351 at the Division I level) that’s a task far easier said than done.
NCAA VP of men’s basketball championship: Officials did see all angles of controversial out of bounds call
In No. 1 Duke’s 68-63 win over No. 1 Wisconsin Monday night to claim the program’s fifth national title, there was an out of bounds call in the final minute that certainly sparked conversation.
With Duke leading by five the officials went to the monitor to review who touched the basketball last before it headed out of bounds on the baseline under the Wisconsin basket. Despite seeing multiple angles the officials ruled that the ball should be awarded to Duke, despite many believing that Duke’s Justise Winslow was the last player to touch the ball.
The final angle shown during the replay process made it appear that Winslow was the last to touch the ball, and according to the NCAA director of officiating John Adams it was an angle that the game officials did not have the luxury of seeing. However on Wednesday Dan Gavitt, the vice president of the men’s basketball championship, contradicted Adams’ statement and told ESPN.com that the officials did see the replay angle in question.
“Unfortunately, John misspoke yesterday,” Gavitt told ESPN.com after his OTL appearance. “The officials did indeed have the camera angle that was shown on the CBS broadcast. It was the last angle they did see. They likely did not stay long enough with a review to see that angle magnified. But they made their determination based on the two-minute review and the camera angle that was shown on CBS and with that determined that there wasn’t indisputable evidence to overturn the call. You need to have indisputable evidence by rule to change the call. The facts are they did have the angle the viewers had.”
Well, regardless of what either Adams or Gavitt has to say about the call in question there’s no turning back now. As for Adams, Monday’s game was his last as the NCAA’s director of officiating and the governing body is evaluating possible replacements. According to the ESPN report the NCAA is two weeks away from making a decision.
Hopefully the next person in charge can get college basketball even closer to having a uniform standard for its officials that doesn’t seem to fluctuate from one conference to another. Some leagues have banded together for scheduling alliances when it comes to their game officials in recent years with this goal in mind. Hopefully it has a positive impact on the game in years to come.