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Rules? Who needs rules?

Came across this article by Jerry Tipton today.  Apparently, Tipton was getting tired of Wildcat fans complaining about the calls, and interviewed Gerald Boudreaux, the SEC coordinator of officials, who basically defended all the questionable calls many Cat fans have recently complained about.

So I thought I would compare Boudreaux's comments to the official NCAA basketball rules, and see if his comments jibe with what is presumably the Bible of NCAA officiating.  I'll take them one at a time, in the order presented in the article, as follows:

The call of an intentional personal foul on Derrick Jasper during the Tennessee game:

"Even though he sticks his hand in there to try to play the ball, because of the fact he is behind, that should be an intentional foul," said Boudreaux, who attended the Kentucky-Tennessee game. ...

"It was not anything hard," Boudreaux said of Jasper's contact with Smith. "Nothing flagrant. But in a number of situations where the defense is behind, any contact can jeopardize the safety of the shooter."

Generally, fans mistakenly believe going for the ball excuses such contact or that the "severity of the contact" determines whether it's an intentional foul, Boudreaux said. Not true.

A defender can contest the shot from the side, but not from behind.

So what advice would Boudreaux give the defender stuck in Jasper's position? "If I don't catch up, I need to let him go," he said.

So what does the NCAA rulebook say? It says this (Note: This is a little long, so please continue below the fold.):
Intentional personal foul.

An intentional foul shall be a personal foul that, on the basis of an official's observation of the act, may be purposeful or reactionary and is not based solely on the severity of the act. Examples include, but are not limited to:

1. Causing excessive, non-flagrant contact with an opponent while playing the ball;

2. Contact that is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball or player, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting;

3. Pushing or holding a player from behind to prevent a score;

4. Fouling a player clearly away from the ball who is not directly involved with the play, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting; and

5. Contact with a player making a throw-in.
Now, we have to judge based on the rule.  Jasper certainly doesn't violate 2, 4, or 5.  So lets look at 1.  Was the contact excessive?  Well, it was a foul, so by definition it was contact, but because there was very little actual contact with the player (i.e. no push or grab), it was clearly not excessive.  So how about 4, apparently the crux of Boudreaux's argument?  Jasper was playing the ball, reached for and actually struck it out of the player's hands.  If a push occurred, it was incidental to the intended play.  But there is definitely some wiggle room in this provision.   Fortunately for my argument and unfortunately for Boudreaux, that isn't the last word the rulebook has on the subject.

Now let's look at the Officiating Guidelines section, in which calling the Intentional Personal Foul is specifically addressed.
Section 4. Intentional Personal Fouling

Guidelines for calling the intentional personal foul are:

a. Any personal foul that is not a legitimate attempt to directly play the ball or a player is an intentional personal foul.

b. Running into the back of a player who has the ball, wrapping the arm(s) around a player and grabbing a player around the torso or legs are intentional personal fouls.

c. Grabbing a player's arm or body while initially attempting to gain control by playing the ball directly is an intentional personal foul.

d. Grabbing, holding or pushing a player away from the ball is an intentional personal foul.

e. Undue roughness used to stop the game clock is an intentional personal foul and, if severe, should be called a flagrant personal foul.

f. It is an intentional personal foul when, while playing the ball, a player causes excessive contact with an opponent.

The intentional personal foul must be called within the spirit and intent of the intentional-foul rule. [emphasis mine]
Well, now Boudreaux's argument looks much, much weaker.  Jasper clearly violated none of these examples, except possibly the "running into the back of a player who has the ball."  As much basketball as I have watched, I have seen many players struck or pushed from behind, either incidental to a play on the ball or deliberately, and less than 10% of them have been called an intentional personal foul.  Officials generally call an intentional on a play where the defensive player had to hit the man in order to stop the score, not the ball, or hit the man so hard in order to get to the ball that the contact was dangerous.  Jasper's case included neither.  In my judgment, Boudreux is fudging the rulebook to defend a bad call.

Bottom line:  Boudreaux is either wrong, or if he is right, the NCAA rules are being misinterpreted by 95% of college officials, including the ones under his supervision.  He is either wrong for not correcting them or wrong about the call.  In either case, he is wrong.

Concerning Nick Calathes' contact with Ramel Bradley in the backcourt, Boudreaux had this to say:

"I saw accidental contact after the play was over," Boudreaux said. "(Calathes) lost his balance and fell into the Kentucky player. ... It was during a dead ball. It was clearly not intentional, not one of those head butts. It was one of those momentum things. He couldn't stop."

Bradley swiped away Calathes' offer of a helping hand. Boudreaux saw frustration.

"When you get put on your butt, you don't know where it came from," he said. "You just know you're on your butt."

Once again, we go to the rule book, just because these things happen to be written down, presumably for a reason:
Section 3. Player/Substitute Technical Fouls

Art. 1. Committing an unsportsmanlike act, including, but not limited to, the following:

    a. Disrespectfully addressing or contacting an official or gesturing in such a manner as to indicate resentment.

    b. Using profanity or vulgarity; taunting, baiting or ridiculing another player or bench personnel; or pointing a finger at or making obscene gestures toward another player or bench personnel.

    c. (Women) Non-flagrant foul that involves contact or causes contact with an opponent while the ball is dead.

        (Men) An intentional technical foul involves contacting an opponent in an excessive but non-flagrant manner while the ball is dead.

    d. Purposely obstructing an opponent's vision by waving or placing hand(s) near his or her eyes.

    e. Climbing on or lifting a teammate to secure greater height.

    f. Knowingly attempting a free throw to which he or she is not entitled.

    g. Inciting undesirable crowd reaction.

    h. Using tobacco.
My recollection is that he incident involving Calathes did not involve a loss of balance, at least until after he ran into Bradley.  Calathes was running back toward the Florida bench after the ball was whistled dead for the under 4 minute media timeout, and ran over Bradley while celebrating on his way to the bench.  I don't know if he intended to do that, but the rule doesn't require the contact to be intentional.  It simply requires excessive, non-flagrant contact, and it clearly was both.  Once again, either Boudreaux doesn't know the rules, or he is fudging them for the sake of convenience.

Bottom line:  Boudreax is wrong, indisputably.  There is no wiggle room on this one.

Finally, regarding the multiple non-calls on Jarvis Varnado during the Mississippi State game:
It came down to judgment call on Varnado."I wish it was easy to explain it," Boudreaux said of the contact on blocked shots. "Philosophically, we'd like the big men to play. Not to gain an advantage, but blocked shots are a part of the game.

Basically, it's a judgment call. Some contact is permissible. How much and where on the body must be judged quickly.

"I have a thing about ticky-tack fouls," Boudreaux said.

In other words, it was a home call.  This, I can live with, as long as they are consistent.  Home calls are a fact of life in basketball and have been since the dawn of time (or at least, since Naismith put up his peach basket and established rules).  We all hate them, but we all must honestly admit that they do tend to even out.  UK definitely gets more favorable calls at home, as does every other SEC team.

Bottom line:  Beaudreax is right in the sense that the officials have and continue to call fouls based on their judgment of the effect of the contact, and that can vary significantly game to game and crew to crew.

As to the argument that all these were judgment calls, I would simply say this -- if we are just going to officiate by what we think is right and wrong, why be so specific?  Just make a general rule outlawing all contact and let the officials judge it how they will.  To my mind, that's what is happening anyway.  They aren't really applying the rules, they are simply applying their instant judgment, and if Boudreaux's defense of the apparently indefensible is any indication, they don't have to worry about sanction as long as there is some remotely plausible way to justify the decision.  And it can apparently be pretty darn remote.

So Boudreax, at least in this writer's opinion, gets 1/3, or 33%.  Thank God his officiating crews get it right more often.