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Midday Missive -- Whazzup wit dat?

Comes now the NCAA with the new anti-cursing initiative.  If you haven't heard about this, it is one of those ever-ambiguous "points of emphasis" for the officials this year -- you know, like palming, backing down defenders inside, smack-talking, fill-in-your-favorite-rule-here, etcetera have been in previous years. 

This initiative is targeted at the sideline decorum of coaches and players, and even though cursing is one of the behaviors targeted, it isn't the only one -- proximity to the coach's box (anyone heard this one before?) and even conduct unbecoming to players is fair game for an official's whistle.  This article by The State has a list of things covered by this mandate, including:

  • Speaking to officials "disrespectfully";
  • Profanity or abusive language directed at ... well, anyone;
  • Inciting "undesirable" crowd reactions;
  • Attempting to "influence" an official's decision;
  • And many more.

As you might expect, SEC coaches had a reaction -- for the record, they're agin' it.  Billy Donovan calls it "window dressing" and insists the NCAA is trying to take the passion out of the game:

But what draws Donovan's ire more is a rule that prohibits his players from standing up or celebrating a play on the bench during the course of a game.

"They should be allowed to show some passion and emotion or don't show the passion and emotion to promote tournaments, to promote the NCAA Tournament," Donovan said. "We want to show the joy of victory and the agony of defeat, but those kids aren't allowed to show those emotions?"

And the foul language rule?  Foul language is prohibited not just to players, officials, and opponents, but to anyone whatsoever, including that annoying fan heckling you from near the bench.  Stray out of the coaching box?  Tech.  Make a dismissive or "disrespectful" gesture at an official?  Tech.  Make a traveling signal when you think an opponent traveled?  Tech.

In an interesting twist, the NCAA has put some serious teeth into this new "emphasis" by telling officials it will give postseason preference to those who enforce the rules most rigidly, i.e. a "zero tolerance" policy.

I can understand the NCAA's position on the verbal abuse of officials, and we might want to rename this the Coach Krzyzewski rule.  While he is not by any means the only coach working the officials hard, he has drawn widespread media attention to the practice to the point that it has drawn allegations that ACC officials are influenced by the constant barrage of abuse.  Gregg Doyel wrote an unusually blunt and well-considered column about this just last year, and you will recall that two officials in the ACC were suspended for a game for making calls favorable to Duke when they played Florida State.

Now, as I said, Coach K isn't the only, and possibly not even the worst offender.  But because he is such a huge name in the biz, he gets the coverage -- rightly so when you get a sniff that maybe the referees are afraid to "T" him up.

Not that Coach K has to worry -- apparently, the ACC is all about mollifying him if you believe this piece at "The Quad", a New York Times sports blog:
He [Krzyzewski] might not have to worry. The A.C.C. is already finding wiggle room, and game officials will be instructed to issue at least a warning for some behavior, such as inadvertently stepping out of the coach's box, before giving a technical.
Yeah, we couldn't have the American Express poster boy getting the heave-ho from too many games for excess apoplexy.  Gotta keep that corporate image and pursue that lucre.

In my opinion, though, the NCAA is going overboard on this and if implemented as the NCAA says they want it implemented, it's going to wind up costing someone a game -- quite possibly a big game.  The behavior that they intended to target, the berating of officials, is a legitimate concern -- there could be ramifications for game outcome being caused by powerful, famous coaches like Coach K constantly beating officials' brains out.

But by expanding the scope of the rule (in a transparently obvious attempt to hide it's actual target(s), if you ask me), and encouraging little or no flexibility, the NCAA is not only setting it's officials up for failure, but they are asking them to enforce a version of morality and decorum that even the officials themselves aren't likely to be comfortable with.  Then, with typical hypocrisy, the NCAA seems to place the new directive to a level of importance that they are effectively asking officials not to worry about the impact it might have on the game of college basketball.  You wanna referee in the post season, Mr. Official?  You'd better "T" up that coach who just asked you "What the hell was that?"

This is just one more example in a long line of the NCAA engaging in self-parody.  Will it ever end?