September 20, 2021

A Referee Shall Do No Harm

Missed calls at home plate, the poor spot of the football after fourth and inches or the blown call of an obvious charge has angered coaches, players and fans alike. But that human element is one of the things that attracts every sports fanatic to their sport of choice.

A missed call is part of the game.

Doesn’t matter what sport it is, officiating has had a hand in deciding the outcome of games long before the last couple of weeks. As sports have evolved and technologies advanced there are many ways referees can get it right with an eye on letting the play on the court or the field decide the outcome of the game rather than them making a wrong call because they did not have a clear view of the play.

I think most fans can accept that….even begrudgingly when that call or call reversal costs their team the game.

What we can’t and should not accept are referee’s not knowing or following the rules as they are instructed and taught to do.

Over the last couple of weeks, during this one-and-done party that is March Madness, there have been three glaring cases that should at a minimum have the offending referee’s monetarily penalized or sent to officiate a local YMCA game. Not only did they not follow, know or understand the rules they were entrusted to enforce, their actions may very well have altered the outcome of games.

Some Non-Shining Moments

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
St John’s vs. Rutgers – Big East Tournament

This game ended with what will go down as a top 5 referee gaffe.

With Rutgers throwing the ball the length of the court, St. John’s Justin Brownlee stole the pass and proceeded to walk with the ball, step out of bounds and throw the ball into the seats. Replays showed that Brownlee stepped out of bounds with 1.6 seconds still left in the game.

But referee’s Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton made no call and actually walked off the floor as time expired ending the game.

So egregious was their non-action, that John Adams, the national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating stated, “Not officiating to the end of a game is unacceptable.”

This isn’t a missed call – this is three “seasoned” referees somehow collectively not seeing three…count ‘em…three violations of the rules and robbing Rutgers an opportunity for a last second win.

Sunday, March, 20 2011
Arizona vs. Texas – NCAA Tournament

You would think that a grown man would know how to count to five, especially when he is allowed to swing his arm to count from one to five. But for some odd and unknown reason referee Richard Cartmell decided that four is the same as five in the Arizona/Texas game this past Sunday.

After handing Texas guard Cory Joseph the ball on a crucial inbounds play Cartmell started his five second count down. As Cartmell counted to number four Joseph, realizing he can’t inbound the ball, calls for a timeout. Somehow this short circuited Cartmell’s brain cells as he immediately called a five second violation without ever making the required 5th chop.

This mistake gave Arizona the ball, which lead to an amazing play by Derrick Williams of Arizona that sent the Longhorns packing.

Sunday, March, 20 2011
Syracuse vs. Marquette – NCAA Tournament

With less than one minute to go in this Big East battle and the game tied, Syracuse guard Dion Waiters inbounded the ball to fellow guard Scoop Jardine who jumped in the air from the front court to catch the pass and landed with his right foot on the half court line. The referee blew his whistle calling Jardine for a back court violation…that wasn’t.

This is a case of either the referee not knowing the rules he is charged with knowing or he is blind as a bat.

Here’s the rule:

NCAA men’s basketball rule book (Rule 4, Section 3, Article 5 and Article 8):

Art. 5. Regardless of where the throw-in spot is located, the throw-in team may cause the ball to go into the back court.
Art. 8. After a jump ball or during a throw-in, the player in his/her front court, who makes the initial touch on the ball while both feet are off the playing court, may be the first to secure control of the ball and land with one or both feet in the back court. It makes no difference if the first foot down was in the front court or back court.

The proof is in the video.

The change of possession led to a Marquette 3-pointer breaking the tie and giving Marquette the lead they would never relinquish.

This is not to say that these referees cost the teams above a win – but they did prevent the outcome to be completely decided by the players on the court. As a general rule referees do a great job – and like it was said earlier – missed calls are part of the game.

But these are not missed calls. These are referees who failed at their job miserably and because of that failure cost three teams the opportunity to have the outcome of a game decided by them and their opponent.


  1. Cant agree with you more TD.. but they are usually right more often than not and Basketball refereeing is a constant moving position and sometimes they dont know whether to call it by the letter of the law or go with it and they most often are in a lose-lose situation in games with so much consequence.

  2. I cant even watch ncaa basketball any more. They let them get away with walking, traveling, palming the ball and carrying the ball too. what ever happen to 1 and 1/2 steps? Thats the rule stick too it. And the uconn and kentucky game was terrible, so many calls that werent called and so many called when they shouldnt have been? The officials should be ashamed of themselves!!!! This is coming from a person who didnt even care who won so that makes it even more upsetting.

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