You know that we here at A Sea of Blue like to occasionally comment on the comings and goings of our rivals over on Tobacco Road (A.K.A. North Carolina and Duke) and their "I wanna be like the SEC" conference. Today, I come to both praise the ACC for wisdom and rip them for vapidity.
First, the praise. Many of us remember when John Clougherty used to referee in SEC games with a combination of loathing and admiration. Since Clougherty has moved on to supervise the officials in the ACC, he has been quite proactive in addressing some of the concerns of both the league and the perception of ACC officials outside the league. We have all heard the stories about how Duke gets all the calls, and cries of, "Carolina ref," etc.
A few days back, Barry Jacobs of WRAL in Raleigh-Durham had this article on what the ACC in general, and John Clougherty in particular are doing to improve the officiating in the ACC. What he did was have some former officials review videos of every ACC game last season and critique the calls:
The former game officials decided to test the common assertion that college officials get calls right 90 percent of the time. "That’s easy to say," Clougherty offered. "I said, ‘You know what, I don’t know how accurate that is.’" So the conference hired four men who previously officiated in the NBA and ACC – Reggie Cofer, Nolan Fine, Rusty Herring, and Donnie Vaden -- and had them review DVD’s of all 89 conference games televised last season.
First of all, kudos and props to Clougherty and by extension the ACC for this initiative. This is a great idea, and will surely provide some excellent data points that will allow at least the potential for improvement in coming years. My only complaint is that if you are going to have a process that has a real appearance of validity, keep the ACC refs down to only one. Otherwise, nobody is going to consider the results fairly achieved except for those in the ACC.
Here are the results so far:
Perhaps not surprisingly, the evaluators found that errors of omission were more problematic than violations that were called.
"The no-calls are killing us," Clougherty said. "When the official blows his whistle, he’s usually right. The percentage comes down considerably, from the low 90’s to the mid-80’s, when they should have had a whistle, but they didn’t."
This is not all that surprising to me, but it is illuminating. The article goes on to say that "body bumping" of an offensive player on a dribble drive is the most common offense not called. There is more detail in the article that I found very interesting and likely valuable.
Of course, when asked if he would share the findings with the public, Clougherty laughed at the very suggestion. What can I say? Guildism did not die in the 1700's, and transparency has always been anathema to the Basketball Official's Guild. They might actually have to admit error, and we can't have that. That is not just an ACC problem, though -- far from it.
But at least Clougherty is trying to address the problem. Would that "What bad call?" Gerald Boudreaux would take the hint and start working to clean up the SEC officiating rather than blithely defending the indefensible.
Now that I've praised the ACC, I think it's time to mock them. You have all no doubt heard the barrels of whine issuing forth from the vicinity of Tobacco Road about the fact that only four ACC teams made it to the NCAA tournament this year. The complaint is that the ACC had the highest conference RPI rating, and the selection committee should have taken that into consideration. In fact, ACC Commissioner John Swofford has lobbied and is continuing to lobby the selection committee to do just that.
The argument that the conference RPI ought to count for something to the selection committee is so facile and easily debunked that I won't bother to do it here -- in fact, David Teel writing for the Hampton/Newport News Daily Press, right there in the heart of ACC country, has debunked this argument so thoroughly that I can't improve on it one iota.
But the obvious fallacy of this argument hasn't stopped Swofford. And he won't stop, even though he knows that he is trying not to level the playing field, but to give the ACC an advantage that they don't deserve. That's a shame, and although it's tempting to place all the blame on Swofford, he is receiving a ton of pressure from the ACC coaches who really don't care about fairness -- it won't be fair unless their team gets in. Pretty pathetic stuff from a league that is supposed to be all about basketball.
By the way, lest it be totally ignored, take a look at this chart:
Four of the other five BCS conferences have NCAA tournament winning percentages higher than the ACC's over the past three years:
Hmm. Yeah, those ACC boys really are getting the screws put to them. Just goes to show you its easier to whine than win in the tournament if you are an ACC team these last few years. Guess that whole RPI thing for the conference really doesn't matter, when you consider the RPI standing of the ACC for the last 3 years:
2007-08: ACC, Pac-10, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Big Ten
2006-07: ACC, SEC, Pac-10, Big Ten, Big East, Missouri Valley
2005-06: Big Ten, Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 12, Missouri Valley
Poor ACC. When you have to sink to seeking advantage in esoterica that you can't even defend with statistics, you know you have reached rock bottom.