Officials Make Mockery of Game


I know.. it’s not the sportsmanlike thing to talk about. It is what it is, nothing can be done about it, so you just have to deal with it- that’s what most fans and analysts say. Coaches are afraid to say anything for fear of being fined or making it worse. Maybe that’s the attitude that has caused the situation to get so bad. Someone has to say it though: the basketball officiating we’ve seen this year is absolutely terrible. It’s making a mockery of the game, it’s embarrassing for the schools and the conferences involved, and it’s not fair to the coaches, players, and fans.

Dec 30, 2011; Newark, NJ, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins (right) argues with official John Higgins (left) during the second half against the Seton Hall Pirates at the Prudential Center. Seton Hall Pirates defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers 67-48. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

I understand that it’s a fast game and people make mistakes. No arguments from me there. I’m willing to tolerate some blown calls in a game because they are inevitable. But the amount of absolutely obvious calls that have been blown this year, from giving the ball to the wrong team when it goes out of bounds to calling fouls before they occur, is completely ridiculous and is really quite embarrassing. I had sincerely hoped that officiating would be better this year in the Big 12, but defying my belief, it’s actually worse.

We all knew it was bad in the Big East. Whenever you saw Tim Higgins, Jim Burr, or Pat Driscoll take the floor (among many others), you knew you were going to be frustrated by the officials the whole game. You knew there would be inconsistent calls- players would be allowed to body check each other under the basket without being called while the slightest contact outside would be, and you’d get a fair number of inconsistent blocks and charges called. But they at least got the easy calls right most of the time- goal tending, out of bounds, those sorts of things. Tim Higgins is now retired though, but don’t worry- a familiar face has taken his place: John Higgins.  We’ve seen him before, but he never seemed this bad.  He’s just one of many that need to go though.

Every game this year, the officials have blown countless obvious out of bounds calls. There was the goal tending call on Aaric Murray against Kansas State that wasn’t even close to goal tending (those 2 points proved to be the difference between winning and losing). And then there’s the inconsistent application of judgement calls. Terry Henderson got hacked on just about every three pointer he took against Texas, no calls. Eron Harris was hip checked with seconds left on the clock and a chance to win in the balance against Iowa State, but there was no call, even though we got called for a much less egregious, but similar foul at the end of the Kansas State game.

November 13, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon (rear) talks to referee Jim Burr (front) against the Rider Broncs during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. PITT won 86-78. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

I’m certainly not saying that we can blame all of our problems and losses this year on the officials. I tend to remember the times we have gotten the raw end of the deal most, but we’ve also benefited from poor officiating, particularly in the TCU game. I think in many games, the bad calls go both ways enough to balance out, but that still doesn’t excuse it. However, there have been games where the officials had a direct impact on the outcome, and that is not acceptable. This was no more apparent than in the loss against Kansas.

Jan 7, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey argues a call with official Pat Driscoll during the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. Notre Dame defeated Louisville 67-65. Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

No doubt, we shot ourselves in the foot repeatedly in this game (more on that later this week), but make no mistake about it, the officials protected Kansas in this game. There wasn’t a single call at the end of the game that directly took away a chance to win, but a series of calls and non calls, particularly from the 10-16 minute mark of the second half, that killed our momentum and allowed Kansas to build it’s lead back up to 7 or 8 after we closed it to 1.

Are they really so inept that it takes 5 minutes to decide if a Staten jumper was a 2 or a 3? Was it just a coincidence that the long, unnecessary delay occurred when WVU was closing in on the lead, had all the momentum, and Kansas was struggling? How does Kansas, a physical team who was body checking and arm wrestling our bigs all game, end up with 34 free throw attempts to our 15, and 19 team fouls to our 26? They repeatedly called us for blocks when our defenders were easily set for a second. They called Aaric Murray for his 4th foul a good second before he was even close enough to commit a foul. There are so many other examples in the game (and yes, we got some calls as well.. but Kansas definitely got the whistle more times than not).  We still had chances to win and blew them all away, but it’s hard to play 5 on 8.

It’s a problem that needs to be addressed. It can never be perfect, but I can never remember it being this bad. This is not an isolated problem that occurs in few games, it’s been every game. And games I’ve watched between other teams seem to be similar- missed calls, inconsistent calls, overall terrible officiating. It seems like some of the officials take joy in making themselves a story line- they like making the overly dramatic block or charge call and give an Oscar worthy performance while prancing around the court waving their arms, they like the boos from the hometown crowd. That stuff needs to stop.

There needs to be a central body (maybe the NCAA, but they’re too busy investigating themselves right now probably) that evaluates all officials and actually has the power to suspend or terminate them based on poor performance. Officials need to be limited to the number of games they can officiate across all sports in a given period of time. And, maybe most importantly, officials should have to go before the media and answer for themselves. Coaches do, players do, and now it’s time for the officials to face the music too.