Just a short thought on what seems to be happening in the world of officiating. This week has proven the old axiom of football and basketball officials “let the players play” in championship games and let the “players decide the game” in the final moments have warn out their welcome.
One need only to look at this past Super Bowl and Tuesday evening’s Ohio State-Michigan game in Ann Arbor as evidence. As a sports fan yes, officiating can be a debatable part of any athletic event. It requires quickness, agility, fast thinking and the ability to let “constructive” criticism roll off their backs. In return these officials are well paid, well traveled and escape being held under public scrutiny, unlike coaches, GM’s and players.
The Ohio State-Michigan game was a preview of what we can expect in March. This year’s tourney might be the most contested event in years. In Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes and Wolverines fought and clawed at each other for the required 40 minutes, then another five when the game couldn’t be decided normally.
In the Big Ten each team expects contact, physicality and the normal bumps and bruises that come with being hit each time you have the ball. This was a game that was dominated by outstanding defense and, which seems to be opposite, strong offense. Ohio State got an effort they hadn’t received all season from their bench and the Wolverines proved they can win when the pressure of the Big Ten is on them.
Yet an outstanding contest was marred by the end. Down by two 76-74 with seven seconds left, the Buckeyes rushed a missed Michigan free throw up the floor looking to tie. Aaron Craft entered the lane and had his last two shots blocked. The last by Tim Hardaway, Jr. right under the basket that ended the game. Not only did it appear live that Craft had been fouled, but subsequent replays also showed one’s eyesight could still be depended on.
While Craft layed on the floor from the contact as the buzzer sounded, the Buckeye bench exploded at the officials and Michigan celebrated. Even the biggest shill for college basketball and officiating, Dick Vitale, called the final play a “bad call.”
Afterwards, Hardaway, Jr. even had to admit he may have gotten away with something.
“I saw the ball in my face, so I just tried to wrap it up,” Hardaway said. “I probably got his arm or something like that, but like I said, it’s up to the refs to call that call, and they let it go.”
Craft was even more diplomatic, knowing they would see these refs down the road.
“There was a bit of contact, but they didn’t call it, so I guess it wasn’t a foul.”
This is what has happened to officiating. Instead of working an entire game, refs only work up until the final moments and then let “the players decide” the outcome. This is wrong. What is a foul or violation in the first minute, should be the same in the final seconds. These officials are paid for a full game, not only 39 minutes of a college basketball game or 59:30 of an NFL game.
Players are smart, so are coaches. They understand how refs will call the final minute, then coach and play accordingly. Meaning they pull, tug, hold and do whatever it takes to win. They are just doing their job.
Now the officials should.
Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show returns on March 4th, at 9pm with a two-hour special.