A word about Officiating

Much has been made about the call by Courtney Green near the end of the Rutgers win over Iowa. That call allowed Ron Harper jr. to can the deciding free throws with two seconds left, sealing the 48-46 Rutgers victory. First off, a call may decide a game but not win or lose it. Teams can look back at the entire game and see things they didn’t do or could have done differently to change the outcome. One call does not lose it.

Now, have to speak here from an official’s perspective. Beside writing about college basketball over four decades, I have officiated basketball 31 years. My level has been, high school, AAU and travel. I have gone to officiating camps a number of years and been fortunate to work games with the likes of Division I officials Brian O’Connell, Brandon Cruz and Brian Dorsey- who have all appeared at Jersey Mike’s Arena over the years.

This is all brought to mind because the question is asked how can Green be in Piscataway one night and in West Lafayette, Indiana for Purdue vs, Indians twenty four hours later? Well, you are hired by your conference supervisor. Many officials work multiple leagues. And the other fact is very simple. We, as officials, love officiating. We love to work. You may have an open date, get a call and find it near impossible to say ‘no’.

On my level I have worked seven straight days for a number of years. We love to work the games. It’s an addiction in a positive way. I have overbooked games and am sure those on the collegiate level, especially given travel logistics, have done so. But we love to work. Do I make mistakes on the court? Definitely, we all do (this is not to say Courtney Green did in those final seconds) . I have made them feeling fresh as well as fatigued. Ray Perrone, an outstanding mentor and official (who also worked many times at Rutgers) once summed up our propensity to err as officials, "none of us are virgins."

About ten years ago Richard Kent (a Rutgers alum) had me do a chapter on a Big East book (Big East Confidential) he published in 2012. The chapter was on officiating. Well in the chapter I told the story of covering day one of the Big East Tournament around 2010 and saying hello to one of the game officials. "Man, I’m tired," he said, "and it’s March." Point is some of these officials are tired by March, a extremely critical month, and at times on certain nights in January and February as well. But we love to work.

The NBA does not have this problem. Officials are employed by the league with a pension plan and are limited in the regular season schedule. Come playoffs they are more rested. College officials work for given conferences but still are independent contractors. Therein lies the scenario of officials working over 70 games, or more, a season. Independent contractors can work as much as they choose and that is the situation outside of the NBA.

College officials working at least five days a week continues and will continue. The best, like Courtney Green, are in demand. All of us, though, just love to be out on the floor. We love to work and find it difficult to turn down the chance.

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