View Full Version : New NCAA officials coordinator aims to make changes

11-18-2008, 01:50 PM
This is well worth reading. Last year featured the absolute worst officiating I've ever seen in a college basketball season. Hopefully this new guy will help get things back on track.......


New NCAA officials coordinator aims to make changes
Mike Decourcy, The Sporting News - 11/18/2008

CINCINNATI -- Watch a college basketball game sitting alongside new NCAA officials coordinator John Adams, and you notice there are a lot fewer blown calls than usual.

Is that because the officials know he's sitting there on press row? Is it because the three gentlemen assigned to referee the game between Xavier and Toledo are particularly capable?

Or, just maybe, it is because if you pay really close attention to what the officials are doing -- sometimes, to the exclusion of how the game is unfolding -- you find they do an excellent job in the most important aspect: getting the calls right.

A retired game official who has worked as officials supervisor for the Horizon, Heartland and Great Lakes Valley leagues, Adams took over the NCAA position following the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the last for longtime officials coordinator Hank Nichols. When the position was created in 1986, Nichols' charge ostensibly was to make officiating more standardized across the nation, eliminating the regional quirks that made games in the Pac-10 look different from those in the Big East. That part of the whole initiative didn't work out so well.

What Adams wants to accomplish might eventually be grandiose, but he is working first to standardize the application of particular calls he believes are essential to the promotion of a clean, artful game. He calls them "absolutes."

The first is that any time a defender places two hands on a ballhandler, it's a foul. Any time. Another is that a player who trips a ballhandler will be called for a foul. No more happy "accidents." The third is enforcing the new goaltending rule: Essentially, a shot can't be blocked after it strikes the backboard.

Adams also has what he calls "focus points." He asked officials to be vigilant about illegal screens "that make a difference" and lead directly to scores. He wants them to watch shooters more closely to be sure defenders don't tap their elbows -- a common trick coaches teach.

He wants officials to be more judicious about calling the charge/block, using the rule as it's written: That a defender establishing legal guarding position before a ballhandler makes contact is going to get the call, but a defender beaten by an advancing dribbler should not be awarded with a charging call if he draws contact with a knee, hip or shoulder.

"I think it's a play we do pretty well on, night-in and night-out," Adams said. "Now, traveling doesn't evoke the same emotions as a block/charge does, but we do a much better job on block-charges than we do on traveling."

All working officials were mailed instructional DVDs during the offseason. Adams does not have actual authority over the thousands of games that are played through the course of the college basketball season. Those belong to the various conference supervisors who schedule officials from the start of the season to the end of the league tournaments.

Most refs, though, aspire to be one of the 96 who'll call the 64 NCAA Tournament games Adams does control.

The crew for Xavier-Toledo consisted of three fine officials capable of working deep into the tournament: D.J. Carstensen, Lamar Simpson and Michael Roberts. They are not the brand-name guys you see every night in big-time games. So the fact they adhered so well to the new directives was not totally surprising. They want to become more prominent.

How about the veteran guys who've worked the game their way for so many years, who conference supervisors covet working in their leagues?

"So far, so good," Adams said, with a look that suggests it'll be a continuing challenge.

Adams pays close attention to the officials' positioning during the game. The baseline official leads the ballet. He is expected to position himself on the side of the court where the ball is located; the other two react to him. The importance of maintaining clear viewing angles is paramount. Officials should not be looking at the back of a jersey. If that's the viewpoint, they're not able to see the play. The ref in that case needs to move.

"If our refs can get in good position to see the play," Adams said, "getting it right is greatly increased."

When the Xavier-Toledo game concluded, Adams asked a simple question: Was this game easy, average or difficult to officiate? Frankly, it seemed like a breeze. Toledo fell out of the game fairly early and never made a serious comeback. The teams seemed to be making a conscious effort to play hands-free defense. There were only a handful of block/charge calls to navigate. Wouldn't it be harder to ref, say, the Crosstown Shootout rivalry between Xavier and Cincinnati -- or the game Xavier played against West Virginia in last year's Sweet 16?

"First of all, you're up like a player. You're going to be at your best," Adams said. "But there are so many things going on in the building that challenge your sensory perception. There are more things interfering with your concentration when there are 17,000 people in an arena.

"But if I was a ref, I'd want to ref the big games. Being in that arena, and being asked to be at my best for 40 minutes, is the challenge every good referee wants."