Andy: Officials, please take heed

GREENSBORO, N.C. – As Atlantic Coast Conference fans settle in for the best Friday in all of sports, here's to hoping you and yours have already taken the day off and can enjoy what could be the best tournament in years, without worrying about your job or classroom status come Monday.

If Thursday's Swan Song of the Les Robinson Invitational was any indication, the 51st annual ACC Tourney will be a family bludgeoning of one another, with up to as many as eight teams carrying a glimmer of hope into Selection Sunday's majesty.

So while attention is firmly focused on college basketball, and the fans of those teams are at least temporarily still interested in what will occur on the Greensboro Coliseum court this weekend, let's take a look at three issues that desperately need to be addressed pertaining to the way the game is officiated.

Keeping in mind that times change, just like the hemline of shorts and the size and cut of the players' hairstyles have evolved from ‘The Natural,' to ‘The Fade,' to clean shaven heads and back again, there is a trifecta of rules-related issues that should not change over the ages. And if they are not taken control of soon, it will negatively affect the future, not the past, of the game many are so passionate about.

1. The Hop. While the National Basketball Association has always allowed a more lenient interpretation of the traveling violation, the full ‘hop,' after a player has picked up his dribble must be outlawed. Again, not to constantly hearken back to the ‘good old days,' but taking an extra step without putting the ball on the floor should only be allowed if the player is driving to the basket and puts up a shot. Simply dribbling, pulling up with both hands on the ball, and then jumping as far as possible before coming to a complete stop should be illegal. It was for over 100 years, and it should be once again.

2. The Frantic Time Out Call. It is not exactly clear when players could be safely awarded a time out call while falling out of bounds, sliding across the floor, or even worse, simply having contact with the ball for a split second; but it has evolved into a joke of a ploy to save an out of control ball handler. When it became OK to utilize this stratagem seemed to begin around the turn of this past century, but now, as exemplified by Duke's J.J. Redick's time out call while making his body into a human sled across the floor in the final seconds of Saturday's win over the Tar Heels, officials have clearly lost control of this inappropriate ruse. Sure, everybody does it, including Carolina players. But just as referees managed to stop the gratuitous hanging on the rim following a dunk in the early ‘90s, so should they halt this flaunting of historical convention. A time out should only be allowed when a player has both complete control of he ball and his body. Perhaps the rules makers should consider a receivers' control of a football as a point of reference -- two feet down inbounds with undeniable possession.

3. The 15th and 16th men. This one is pretty simple, and like the two previous, has worsened exponentially over the past few years. No need to overanalyze it. Only 13 human beings should be allowed on the playing floor while the clock is running – the 10 uniformed players and the three uniformed refs. To put it bluntly: Coaches, get off the floor. If a loafer accidentally strays partially across the sideline stripe, well no harm done. But let's face it; coaches are becoming more and more a part of the action, and not just when the ball is on the other end of the court. Officials and coaches are colliding more frequently, with the unruliest of the coaches seemingly taking defensive postures while several feet onto the playing surface. No coach was more obtrusive in this capacity than the 6-foot-7 Matt Doherty during his tenure as UNC coach, but countless others exploit the rule as well. When a referee sees a coach's entire body across the sideline, it should warrant an immediate technical foul call. It did a few years ago, and it should today.

These are national concerns, not just local ones. But while fans, players, coaches, media and administrators convene in the Gate City for the granddaddy of all conference post-season tournaments today, this is a plea for someone to politely ask ACC Director of Officiating Fred Barakat to make these issues of reform a point of emphasis in the upcoming off-season.


Senior writer Andy Britt is in his second year with Inside Carolina. His work has appeared in newspapers across the country such as The Raleigh News & Observer, The Chapel Hill News, The State (Columbia, S.C.), The Seattle Times, The Houston Chronicle and The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. He can be reached at a.j.britt@mindspring.com.

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