I love the NCAA tournaments and my brackets like everyone else, but you’re not going to catch me on a crusade defending a lot of aspects of NCAA basketball or even its men’s officiating. First of all, I am loath to explain why the rest of the world from age 14 plays four 10-minute quarters, with a 24-second shot clock and eight seconds to get the ball into frontcourt and the NCAA is still playing with two 20 minute halves, a 30-second shot clock and 10 seconds to get into frontcourt (that’s at least somewhat better than the 35-second shot clock they had until 2015!).
47-24?!? That’s a score from another era
With teams sometimes walking the ball up the floor it’s no wonder that we see a plethora of low scores in the 40’s and 50’s with none worse than this year’s embarrassment of Virginia Tech defeating North Carolina State 47-24 – and those were two Top 25 teams!
I also look askance at the schedule for D1 referees. The work 20-25 games per month during the 4-month season, racing from airport to airport in order to maximize income, which for a top group can mean a couple of hundred thousand dollars (or for a more elite group of 30 or so, even several hundred thousand dollars) per season. And these trips aren’t Chicago-Detroit-Minneapolis: they’re off the beaten path, more like Stillwater to Tallahassee to Memphis to College Park to Tuscaloosa to Waco, etc. Not exactly your direct flights either – and of course, in the dead of winter. That mean little or no time to stop, to breathe, to reflect or to self-evaluate. It just can’t be a good thing.
And I’m not even going to get into the issue of physical fitness. Suffice to say, most basketball referees around the world and certainly those who are licensed internationally by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) have stringent fitness tests (currently the Multi-Stage Fitness Test – or as it is called, the “beep test”); let’s be generous and just say that NCAA referees…do not.
NCAA basketball pushes past the $1 billion mark
But it’s no wonder the constant harping on referee performance has been exacerbated (and sometimes exaggerated) in recent years by social media, television and technology: NCAA basketball is HUGE business – already in 2016 revenue from media rights, fees, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and a proliferation of television ads passed the $1 billion mark! And Forbes just published its list of most valuable college basketball teams. Here are the Top 10:
- Louisville: 3-year revenue $52.0 million/3-year profit $30.4 million (how’s that for a business!).
- Kentucky: $49.4 / $24.9
- Indiana: $35.5 / $21.0
- Duke: $33.1 / $14.0
- Kansas: $32.2 / $18.5
- Ohio State: $29.0 / $14.9
- Syracuse: $28.5 / $15.0
- Arizona: $26.9 / $14.2
- Illinois: $25.8 / $12.8
- Wisconsin: $25.5 / $14.6
I have no doubt that March Madness will have its share of complaints about officiating – some justified and others not. Someone has to be blamed for not winning your office pool!