Discussion

Ideas on how to fix officiating

Updated: April 6, 2012, 3:52 PM ET
By Jay Bilas

There are so many things right about college basketball officials, and many things to be lauded and applauded. The game has some very good officials who are worthy of our respect and admiration. I have yet to encounter a single official who does not have as his primary goal to get it right, and to get it right every time. I believe the officials wish to do what is best for the game and what is mandated under the rules. The majority of officials do a good job.

But college basketball officials have a lot on their plates. They serve different masters (league supervisors, the NCAA supervisor, coaches and the court of public opinion), and there is no single person or body that is "in charge" of officiating.

Why? College basketball officials are independent contractors and are therefore not employees who can be mandated to call games according to certain, strict guidelines. (Don't ask me the logic of how NCAA member institutions can pay "independent contractors" so much money to run on the floor with their "amateurs" and still claim they cannot provide compensation to the players or they will be "employees.") Officials are accountable to a degree but are not totally accountable, as are NBA or NFL officials. College officials are subject to some very real criticism from powerful coaches, both on the sidelines and in direct communication between supervisors and coaches. And the officials are often hamstrung by rules that are antiquated and make no logical sense.

Even though there is no one truly in charge of college basketball officiating, there are things that can be done to improve the product and, by extension, improve the game.

College officials should be supported, and the best way to support officials is to mandate the way games should and will be called and to hold officials strictly accountable for enforcing the rules as written and interpreted. That way, officials are supported by the mandate, and the fact they have no choice in the matter. If they are mandated to call the game a certain way, all the complaining in the world by coaches and players will do no good because the officials have no choice. The mandate from above gives them cover, because if they do not comply, they will be held accountable by being fined, suspended or fired.

I have my view of things in the area of college officiating. Generally I believe college officials are misunderstood and, quite frankly, have become too big a part of the game. I believe there are three teams on the floor in every college basketball game: the home team, the away team and the team of officials. The officials are the only team on the floor getting paid and the only team on the floor that does not have an opponent trying to stop it from doing its job correctly. While some mistakes must be expected in any endeavor, there is no excuse for officials making so many mistakes. While they strive to get it right, which is laudable, they should get it right more often than they do.

Before we get to some solutions, I need to state this simple fact: College basketball is down right now and a lesser product than it was four years ago. Scoring is at its lowest point in the last 15 years, the quality of play has slowly declined and the game has devolved into a "clutch and grab" affair in which fouling has become acceptable defense. In addition, officials have allowed charges to be handed out like Halloween candy on Oct. 31.

There are far too many charges awarded to help defenders, and most of the charge/block calls you see are simply wrongly decided by officials. It is out of control, and I have not heard any coaches disagree with that assertion. The charge call has become a major problem in college basketball, and it needs to be addressed with all deliberate speed.

Through statistics, metrics and my lying eyes, it has become clear to me that college basketball is at its lowest point in the past 30 years. And I believe the manner in which the game is officiated is the primary culprit ...

Through statistics, metrics and my lying eyes, it has become clear to me that college basketball is at its lowest point in the past 30 years. And I believe the manner in which the game is officiated is the primary culprit for the decline in the game's quality.

Officials blame coaches who teach techniques that are contrary to the rules, and many coaches are indeed doing that. But the officials are the last line of defense in protecting the game. If a coach teaches a technique that is a foul or a violation, it is up to the officials to call that foul. Period. The only way to stop players from fouling or violating rules is to call the fouls and violations. When violations and fouls are called, players and coaches will stop doing it. Why? Players and coaches want to win and want to keep the best players on the floor.

Here are some suggestions and proposals for officiating and for changes in the rules.

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