Special to the Tribune-Star
It has been many years since I tried to be a basketball player. I was the last man cut in my junior year at Clinton High School. My mother had moved us from Newport, where I surely would have played that year, to Clinton where I was an unknown small guard, good ball-handler, decent shot, but one of many that could have filled that role on a basketball team.
I cried and pouted for two solid weeks until my father sat me down and said, “OK, you think Coach Burton made a mistake on you, but that’s his job. What do you intend to do about it? Hiding in your room is an answer I won’t accept.” At the end of that school year, I was on the radio and my life was changed forever.
I’ve always loved the game. I cheer for teams that share the ball, make sharp passes, and make their free throws and open shots when they need to. Throw in good defense and that would be my coaching philosophy. (Not exactly brain surgery.)
What I do not know are the rules. I don’t know, now, when a charge is a charge and a blocking foul is, or is not, a foul. The other night Kansas was playing Iowa State and one of the Jayhawks charged into a guard, or the man guarding him, from Iowa State. It knocked him right on his keester. (Was this a charge or a block?)
While sitting on the floor, the Iowa State player grabbed at the basketball and the referee called a foul on him. That was the dumbest call among many dumb calls I have seen this year. So what’s the difference between the origin of the charging foul and the calls being made today? I just don’t know.
When I played, if a person was standing still and you charged into him, the foul belonged to you. If the person was moving into your drive, the foul belonged to him. Well, that ain’t the way it is now. This call, foul or no foul, has so many variations, I’m totally in the “I don’t know” category.
It might be the fact that we now see games all over the country in many conferences and many different players, while in the old days, the majority of these games were only seen by the people who were there … different areas, different schools, different conferences, and a different attitude about the rules. The rules are made by the NCAA Rules Committee, but it’s a little bit like being a Methodist. It may depend on what part of the country you’re in as to what your belief system is.
I don’t have an answer, except it must be confusing as all get out if you’re a player, or a coach, trying not to get an ulcer.
This is scary. There are billions bet on college basketball every day, every week, every month. One bad call by a referee could shift millions of dollars in a betting situation. Am I saying the refs are crooked? I don’t know! But it is a possibility. The other possibility is paying the referees differently. In a seven-day period, some of these guys do three or more games to earn a living. That’s too much basketball, too much physical effort for middle-age men, and I’m sure it must get confusing for them.
God knows the NCAA has enough problems, but the game keeps growing and these problems persist.
The charge, or no charge, foul is ugly, and it needs to be fixed.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.