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Thursday, July 31, 2008
Big Ten tour: Hoops officiating and the TV command center

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- It's a little odd to enter Rich Falk's spacious office and see all of the furniture pushed into the corners. Falk, a former Northwestern basketball coach, explains that he and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, a former basketball captain at North Carolina, use the space to conduct defense demonstrations. It's the coach and player in them.

Falk points to the TV across from his desk and the item sitting above it. "That's the bad-call brick," he said. "It's foam rubber. I've been known to throw it once in a while."

As the Big Ten's associate commissioner for officiating programs and the primary supervisor for men's basketball officials, Falk spends most of the winter looking out for bad calls. He oversees every element of men's basketball officiating, from hiring officials to scheduling to payroll to evaluations to rules interpretations to arena security/atmosphere. Here's what I learned about each area:

Hiring/scheduling

Evaluation process

Game environment

During the season, Falk spends much of his time in the Big Ten's TV command center, located on the first floor of the league office. The room contains TVs tuned to every Big Ten game and phones so that Falk and other league officials can reach the networks broadcasting the games to interpret rules or make corrections. Dave Parry, the Big Ten's coordinator of football officials, spends every fall Saturday in the room.

Big Ten assistant commissioner for technology Mike McComiskey joins Parry in the control room during the fall. In addition to running the Big Ten's Web site and working with the league's television partners, McComiskey monitors instant replay. If there's a technical issue in the control room or a major instant replay malfunction around the league, McComiskey steps in. After being the "test conference" for instant replay, McComiskey said the system has functioned well since being turned over to a third party. Hi-Definition currently is too expensive to incorporate with instant replay, but McComiskey expects it to be added in the next 1-2 years. The Big Ten could be the first league to try Hi-Def with its instant replay.