Thursday, March 21, 2013

Survive and advance also applies to referees


Forgive college basketball referees for compulsively checking their email inboxes in the hours leading up to dinner two days before Selection Sunday. That’s when John Adams, the NCAA’s national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, annually notifies 100 officials that they have been chosen to work in the NCAA Tournament.

The evaluation process begins several months before that notification. Adams asks the 31 automatic-qualifier conferences for a list of names of officials likely to work conference tournaments. (The Ivy League is asked for a list of officials that likely would be used if the conference had a postseason tournament).

Adams and four regional advisers start with that list of about 500 and make sure that every one of them is evaluated in person by at least one of the five evaluators. After evaluated, the 500 names are placed into one of two groups: 1. Consider for the NCAA Tournament; 2. Don’t consider for the NCAA Tournament. The first group has about 200 names.

“We have a provision where each one of our 31 automatic qualifying leagues provide us with nominations in order of the officials that they manage throughout the season,” Adams told the Journal-World in an interview last month in the NCAA offices in Indianapolis. “We’re obligated to take at least one official off each one of the nomination lists from the 31 automatic qualifying leagues. Then we’ll look at the nominations and see where those lines cross between who we think is good enough to work the tournament and who the leagues think are the best guys.”

Adams said the first game that a first-time official from a less competitive league works is chosen carefully.

“The first time in, you probably don’t want him in an 8/9 game. You might want him in a 16/1, 15/2 game,” he said, then quickly defended their credentials. “They’re very capable. We’ve done background checks. We watched them in a game.”

Twelve officials are sent to each of the eight sub-regional sites, including Kansas City, Mo. Seven are pre-assigned to work the second day at each site, with three working each game and an alternate staying in case of an injury or emergency that precludes someone from working a game.

Before making those assignments final, Adams said he studies the brackets for a couple of hours.

“Now that I know the teams, now that I know the match-ups, are there conflicts? Do I have too many guys from the West Coast, and there are four West Coast teams? So let’s say I can’t get neutrality,” Adams said. “If I can’t get a neutral group, let’s say Kansas is playing Georgetown, I may want a guy who is particularly identified with the Big 12, a guy who is particularly identified with the Big East and a guy from the Southland, so that nobody’s griping, ‘Well, they know him better than we know him.’ That’s the bit of art work that goes into it.”

The evaluation process continues as the tournament field shrinks. The top 40 officials (including four alternates) make the cut and advance to the regional sites.

“We analyze all the evaluations,” Adams said. “We’re evaluating every official at every game throughout.”

Sunday night, the 40 officials who advance are informed. Is the cut based on the entire season or strictly on tournament performance?

“I’d say it’s probably weighted a little more on how they do in the tournament, but much like the (basketball tournament) selection committee relies on a body of work, so do we,” Adams said.

Next, on the Monday one week before the NCAA title game, five days before the national semifinals, Adams has the pleasure of making nine memorable phone calls.

“I call them personally and tell them, effectively, ‘You made the show.’ And I listen to them yell and cheer and scream’ and some of them cry,” Adams said. “It’s a pretty emotional phone call for both of us because it’s the culmination of these guys’ dreams to work the Final Four.”

The Final Four refs’ names are made public later that day.

Contrary to popular opinion, coaches are not allowed to make their own personal referee blacklists, according to Adams.

“As a matter of fact, if we were to uncover a blacklist process from one of the automatic qualifying leagues, I think our bylaws are such that we wouldn’t give them any share of tournament revenue,” Adams said.

That doesn’t mean those responsible for assigning officials throughout the country during the course of the college basketball season or in the tournament ignore history between coaches and referees.

“As you put together the crews for the games, if Bill Self had gotten in a physical, knock-down drag-out fight with a referee and might have had one bad night on the same night Bill had one bad night and we still wanted him in the tournament — although that would be unlikely that two guys were rolling around on the floor — that would probably not be a referee we would want in a Kansas game,” Adams said.

Remember, the interview took place before Self’s prolonged, passionate reaction to Ben McLemore getting tagged with a technical foul by referee John Higgins against Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament, so Adams wasn’t making a veiled reference to that. Still, it will be interesting to see whether Higgins works any Kansas games.

“As the tournament narrows down and the best guys keep rising, sometimes conflicts become unavoidable,” Adams said, again speaking in general terms.


WETSUhawk 8 years ago

The entire officiating within college basketball needs to be overhauled. There are three teams on the court and how the official team works together is as important as how each of the teams playing work together. Anyone who has played or coached will tell you that they can adjust their game according to how it's called. When that third team is not a team that works together each game, you have the inconsistencies in calls made. They need to try to keep guys working games together as much as possible.

When you watch a game and the officials are comfortable with each other you notice that the game is a lot smoother with crisp mechanics and proper position and area coverage. It only takes one of the three to be lazy to cause the others to try to cover for him, therefore not giving their responsibilities the 100% attention as needed.

With an improved evaluation (neutral party) system and more training, the NCAA could make this game more enjoyable for all. After too many poorly officiated games, the sport will lose it's viewing share (poor product and marketing).

THANKS Tom for covering this process and I apologize for ranting about something that will not change. I admit that come tourney time the officiating is normally the way all games should be called.

Jayhacker 8 years ago

WETSUhawk: Hard to argue with your comments in the first 2 paragraphs, but your suggestions for improvement make me wonder how familiar you are with the life of NCAA D-1 officials.

You imply that "an improved evaluation (neutral party) system" is the Big 12, EVERY game has an assigned (permanent to each location) observer who rates each of the three officials and submits those ratings to the league supervisor of officials. The ratings are shared with each official; the ratings, along with input from coaches, are used to determine if the official will be scheduled for home games involving conference teams the next year. Not sure how much more neutral that can be.

You also suggest "more training" is needed...Every D-1 (and D-2, for that matter) official attends NUMEROUS camps conducted by the conferences in the off-season at which classroom training as well as game situation observation (usually provided by AAU teams in concurrent tournaments) occurs. It is a VERY rigorous, time-consuming and costly process for the officials. Not sure what else you think should occur.

As a former HS official myself, I have the highest respect for D-1 officials. It's a tough job, and not particularly well-compensated. Do they make mistakes? You bet. Are there officials I HATE to see assigned to KU games? Absolutely. Can officiating be improved? Sure. But until the NCAA decides to take over officiating for ALL games, not just tournament games, and take on compensating officials as well, there's not a lot more improvment to be made in the current system.

WETSUhawk 8 years ago

I understand what you are saying, my point about the neutral is to eliminate coaches in the evaluation system. I know that seems ridiculous. IMO coaches should coach the rules, and they should have influence on the rules. Too many coaches are screaming about calls that by rule two or three whistles could be called on every possession.

There are too many commentators and ESPN (experts) that have obviously never read the rules influencing the game.

The training is reeducation of officials that make a call when they have no angle. I have yet to know of anyone who can see through a human body. Yet we see numerous calls that their angle gave them no clear vision on the POSSIBLE infraction. I could go on, but my point is that the training needed is to try to reach perfection and consistency. With on-line training (NCAA could develop an outstanding on-line training) they could attempt to gain consistency. And I agree with you, it needs to be every single NCAA game.

I appreciate your response, and as you well know unless we write a Jaybate novel on here, we can't discuss all the ins and outs. I realize the extent of training these people go through, but yet we see the same problems every year. Maybe it's time the NCAA thinks outside the box and change. Most people are reluctant to change, but innovation is a good thing.

Again thanks Jayhacker for your response and your last statement "the current system" is dead on. And like you I appreciate the job that most of these officials do.

Woody Cragg 8 years ago

I''m more interested in the NCAA having consistant guidlines on violations nation wide, but how can they do it if leagues employ their own workforce? Likely will be consistantly inconconsistant like all season long. So many things are just ignored now that sometimes is tough to watch the palming, holding, & shoving only to see a touch called on a shooter, for the and one. Like we said all year, you must have a good enough team to overcome poor officiating-end of subject. Now it's go big or go home. Last thing I want is refs deciding games with T's like last week in some conf tournaments unless absolutely unavoidable.

741hawk 8 years ago

Tom, I'd be interested in knowing how much these guys make. I believe Fran Frischella (sp?) recently stated in a broadcast that the officials were making $1850 for that game. Did I hear that right?

Phoggy_Notion 8 years ago

Although I cannot recall the source, i've heard that 6 figures is not out of the ordinary for a power 6 conference ref.

Displayhawk 8 years ago

It's like Kentucky recruits ....... You get what you pay for!

Steve Reigle 8 years ago

I think the simplest way to get some consistency is to take control of officiating away from individual conferences and have a single centralized body training and contolling the officials. That might be the NCAA or it might be an independent contractor under the auspices of the NCAA.

Woody Cragg 8 years ago

Just not the ones that were working on the misery/miami/haith dig, OK?

jaybate 8 years ago

"Survive and Advance"--to much from Roy's time.

"Labor and advance"--Bill Self's time.

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