Hey Officials, Where’s the Consistency?

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What ever happened to the glory days? The Fab Five? The era of Dean Smith, Bobby Knight and coaches of that magnitude? Well, Father Time happened. And with the times changing, the game changes, as expected. But this past Sunday when Michigan State lost to Wisconsin, something, for me at least, was magnified in a negative way.

The lack of consistency and the disgrace that is officiating in college basketball.

I’m not going to throw any statistics at you in this article, showing how the number of fouls are up in a monumental way. I’m going to give you a personal analysis from not only Sunday’s game, where Michigan State was called for 26 fouls, but today’s game that is college basketball is incredibly difficult to watch, and it all comes back to the officiating.

Michigan State was called for an obscene amount of fouls in the game. The 26 fouls resulted in a whopping 34 free throws for the Badgers, 26 of which were made. That’s one point for every foul Michigan State committed, an astounding statistic. On the other hand, Wisconsin committed fourteen fouls, resulting in 14 free throws (11 were made) for the Spartans. That’s a difference in 12 fouls, which is noticeable to anybody with two eyes and ears, to hear the whistle blow too many times.

Tom Izzo was adamant in his press conference Monday that it’s his fault for not adjusting to the new rules/officiating style. But that’s what he HAS to say, so he doesn’t get fined and protects the Michigan State University brand. But it’s clear as day to see that the officiating style in today’s game isn’t conducive to healthy play on the court.

The constant whistles slows the game down, and they creates a game within the game with poor free throw shooters continuously heading to the line (kind of like the ‘Hack-a-Shaq’ phenomenon). The constant whistles, pace of play fluctuating and lack of consistency gets coaches, players and fans alike (can you tell?) agitated. A couple years ago, everybody was crying out that the product needed to change, and that included changing the rules. I, along with any sane fan, am fine with rule changes.

The shot clock being reduced from 35 to 30, the number of timeouts being reduced from six to four, the restricted area being changed, that’s all fine and dandy.  What’s not okay is the fact that a defender merely touching an offensive player with the ball is constantly called a foul on the court. There were several instances on Sunday, and this season in general, where the referee at the time called a foul when, to the naked eye and fan perspective, there was no foul to be called.

In fact, the NCAA national coordinator of officiating, J.D. Collins, was quoted as saying “the game should be faster,” when asked what he thought about the tempo of the game. Well, that’s contradictory, because the whole reason why most fans are upset is the tempo being completely off balance.

The game of basketball, you could argue, is the sport with tempo being the most important factor. If you mess with that tempo, the game itself will not be played out the way it is supposed to be; that is not a good thing, no matter what anybody else tells you.

But the overarching problem is the NCAA: they, as the ruling organization over college athletics, make the rules. The officials follow those rules and do their jobs. Basketball is considerably less physical than it was only a couple years ago. Nowadays, you can’t drive in the lane without getting a foul called. Seriously, watch any college basketball game in the next week and see if there’s more than five calls that are blatantly wrong to you, a fan, watching on television. I’d bet that there will be, and you’ll get agitated, if you care about the game of basketball. Any touch on an offensive player’s arm is pretty much automatically called a foul. I think it’s very clear to see that college basketball has changed significantly, and for the worse. Worst of all, it shows no signs of changing anytime soon.

Bottom line: I know that these officials have a difficult job, and it’s not all their fault. But watching the ending of the Duke/Syracuse game, when Mike Krzyzewski, a usually calm-tempered coach, was absolutely livid at the lack of calls towards the end of the game, made me see the real problem. And that problem is consistency.

The officiating will be lackluster, and we have to accept that. But what we can’t accept is a lack of consistency. I’m not going to wait outside in the zero degree temperatures for hours this Saturday morning for College GameDay and then get excited for the biggest game of the season to see it decided by a blown call down the stretch. That is something that nobody should stand for, and I hope the NCAA realizes that their product, one that is loved and followed like a religion by many, is suffering for the worse, and they need to do something to fix it as soon as possible.