College Basketball Nation: NCAA Basketball Rules Committee

The removal of slippery decals from basketball courts -- something we can all agree on -- isn't the only recommendation the NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Rules Committees (MWBRC?) made to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP -- now there's a handy acronym) Monday.

There are a handful of interesting potential rules changes or applications in this release, including an update on the block-charge rule, a topic we'll discuss in more detail later in the week. Also among the potential changes? A crackdown, for lack of a better term, on sideline antics in response to calls made by officials during the games.

Under the topic heading "Sportsmanship," the NCAA said both committees "recommended more stringent adherence to officiating guidelines regarding bench decorum by coaches and bench personnel next season." Among the behaviors the basketball rules committee believes "hurt the image of the game" and should be penalized with technical fouls are obvious -- things like continued comments to or about referees regarding foul disparities or "cheating" a team, profane comments referring to "race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation," things like that. Those should probably be obvious technicals anyway. But the NCAA also included the following items:
  • Prolonged, negative responses to a call/no-call that are disrespectful or unprofessional and include waving or thrashing the arms in disgust, dramatizing contact by re-enacting the play, or running or jumping “in disbelief” over a call/non-call.
  • A negative response to a call/no-call that includes approaching/charging an official in a hostile, aggressive or otherwise threatening manner; emphatically removing one’s coat in response to a call/no-call; or throwing equipment or clothing on to the floor.
  • Continual criticism during a game regarding the same incident after being warned by an official.

Those types of things are downright common in college basketball. Coaches have for many years been given relatively free license to throw temper tantrums on sidelines, and oftentimes their assistant aren't far behind. It's gotten to the point that if you watch a lot of college basketball (or the NBA game, for that matter), you're almost anesthetized to it. Coaches leave their boxes. They scream and flail and plead for calls. They make funny, faux-shocked expressions. It's so rampant it has long since stopped registering.

But such a push dovetails with what NCAA national officiating coordinator John Adams' wrote to his refs in a much-publicized January memo. Adams' was mostly concerned with instances of on-court taunting -- players hanging on the rim after dunks, staring each other down, and other similarly nefarious activities -- but he also included a point of emphasis for officials regarding the behavior of sideline personnel:
"Article 2 deals with the conduct of bench personnel," Adams wrote. "If a coach is out on the floor complaining about a call, it is not your job to walk him back. It is your job as an official to assess a technical foul for violating the provisions of 10-5-2, a,b,c, e or f. If a coach is gesturing and complaining across the floor at you to the point where he has ignored a warning to stop, DON'T go across the floor to have a 'baseball umpire confrontation' with him, just assess him a Technical foul."

If I had to rank the college game's on-court problems, I'd put coaches' behavior pretty low on the list. (Remember that block-charge tease? Exactly.) But it is a problem nonetheless. If the new emphasis is enforced properly, it will surely be a net positive, if only for the pace of the game. And, yes, it will be strangely satisfying to see coaches -- grown men and tantrum-throwers extraordinaire -- forced to close their mouths and put their arms at their sides and juts accept the call, disagree with it though they may.

At the very least, my hope is this: The NCAA's increased crackdown will trickle down, urging the nation's rec league referees to be less inclined to listen to failed high school basketball players pretending to be Rick Pitino for 40 minutes every Tuesday night. If my calculations are correct, this will spurn a 45 percent increase in my enjoyment of rec league basketball. Fingers crossed!
We can disagree on many things. You dislike "Girls." I think it's kind of incredible. You don't play video games. I am deciding whether to buy "Max Payne 3," "Diablo III," or both. You like Dwyane Wade. I think his game (pivot, head fake, draw foul, strut) is infuriating. Different strokes, different folks. It's all good.

With that said, there is at least one thing we will not -- cannot -- disagree on: sponsorship stickers on basketball courts.

Nobody likes those things. Every November and December, they clutter college basketball's neutral courts and exempt tournaments, advertising things like time-specific energy dosage and car parts. Which would be all well and good, I guess, were the decals relatively harmless. They aren't. The stickers are a different surface from the court -- they have a slick plastic-y feel, as opposed to the smooth traction of finished wood -- and each and every season we see a handful of players slip on them, threatening injuries both minor and serious. They are a scourge, these stickers, and they need to be destroyed.

Good news is the NCAA agrees. Last week, the NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Rules Committees decided to recommend a rules change requiring all courts to be "of a consistent surface." From Monday's NCAA basketball rules committee release:
Members of both committees, which conducted their annual meeting May 6-8 in Indianapolis, agreed that “the playing court must be completely finished in a manner that is consistent throughout.”

This rules change does not restrict the use of decals, but it does make clear that those marks must be similar to the rest of the court. This includes the three-foot sideline and restricted area behind the baseline. [...]

Rules committee members cited times they’ve seen players slip on areas not consistent with the rest of the court. They are suggesting that any additional logos or decals have the same kind of traction as the rest of the floor.

“The safety of our student-athletes has to come before anything else,” said John Dunne, the chair of the men’s basketball rules committee and coach at St. Peter’s. “We’re seeing players slip on the non-consistent parts of the floor too many times.”

It should be noted that this is merely a recommendation. The NCAA rules committee merely floats rules changes to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which can reject or approve recommendations. The oversight panel will meet via conference call June 12, according to the release. Bureaucratic processes aside, though, it's hard to imagine the NCAA not eventually ratifying this idea. Is there anyone who could conceivably disagree? Anyone who wants to stand up for the rights of slippery, potentially dangerous sticker-makers the world over?

Didn't think so. We're all of us -- fans, players, coaches, the NCAA, everyone -- on the same page. That doesn't happen often, but I'm glad it's the case here. High-five, everyone!

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