Guest post: Is it time for more accountability for officials?

John Calipari (Jeff Houchin Photo)


With all the news lately about poor quality officiating in the NCAA Tournament and the culmination of poor officiating occurring in the UK-North Carolina game, it seems strange to me that referees are not held to the  same standard of accountability as the players and coaches.

You’ve seen the postgame press conferences with players and coaches. After a very difficult loss players are asked why they attempted to make a certain play that failed, what were they thinking when this play happened or that play was not executed correctly. Coaches have to explain why they used a certain defense, did not play a certain player or did or did not call a time out at a critical point in the game.

These are 18 to 22 year old kids answering difficult questions in a difficult environment. Coaches are answering questions knowing their livelihood and career may be on the line.

Where are the referees in this scenario? In the official’s locker room, taking a shower, having a Coke or packing their bags to head out and do another game the next night. Doesn’t it seem strange that teenage kids can be expected to face the bright lights and intense scrutiny of the media and yet the referees receive a pass? Referees should be required to address the media and explain their reasoning and interpretations of the rules based on the actions that occurred in the game.

Top  referees from the Power Five conferences earn on average $2,000 to $3,000 per game (per USA Today) and work 50 or more games per season. For a part time job that pays $100,000 or better per year, I believe that more accountability to the public is warranted. If college players are held accountable through reduced playing time and coaches are held accountable through loss of employment at worst or critiquing by the media and public at best, it only seems fitting that referees should also be required to answer questions about their performance.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said: “Don’t let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down, your ego doesn’t go with it.”

I think that quote sums up the reason why we don’t see more public accountability from referees in all levels of sports. Sometimes ego gets in the way of people in power and they believe that any questioning of their actions is disrespectful of them and their position.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Knowing that you will have to explain what you saw or didn’t see concerning actions in the game should help you to sharpen your knowledge, focus and execution during the game similar to what happens with players and coaches. If you know you will have a painful experience explaining your poor performance, it tends to motivate you to always perform well or get out of the business. Both of those scenarios seem to be a win-win for all involved.

Since the NCAA has seen fit to select John Higgins to referee the Final Four games, I am sure calling for referee accountability is like ” beating a dead horse ” but sometimes you need to “beat a dead horse” to get the flies out.



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  1. I am at loss for words on this subject. I try never to blame refs for a loss, but this game just has a bad smell to me. Higgins, may or may not have anything against UK. I think there should be an investigation to see if there was a motive. it was so clear that some of the calls were so bias!!! Anyway, love my Cats! GO CATS!!!

  2. The time for accountability for college basketball officials has long since past. Here are my suggestions:

    1. Face the press after each game
    2. An independent (not involved with NCAA but funded entirely by NCAA TV Revenue) Review Board who views and grades officials individually for each game, and publishes the results in real time
    3. A professional college basketball referee force, funded by the NCAA, trained by the NCAA, and scheduled for the season, regular and tournament, by the NCAA to eliminate variations in focus points by conference
    4. The right of each college coach to provide to the NCAA prior to each season a list of up to 3 NCAA Basketball Officials who may not work games coached by that coach under any circumstance, to be kept confidential.
    5. If 3 or more coaches blacklist the same official, the NCAA must eliminate that official from employment by the NCAA immediately.

    1. Professor, that will never happen because it is too logical for the NCAA to adopt. I am like GeneT in that I don’t like to blame the refs for a loss, but sometimes, it is so obvious what has occurred. I wasn’t upset how the game was called in the second half, but the first half blew my mind. Fox should have been at the foul line at least six trips in the first half alone. If those fouls had been called, Maye’s shot wouldn’t have mattered.

  3. Until it effects the $ bottom line, the NCAA will do nothing. With most of the income coming from TV, that is not going to happen.

  4. The NCAA is corrupt right down to its socks. No way they ever put accountability on the refs. That’s their primary means of controlling the outcome of games and anyone that thinks they don’t do that is just ignorant of the situation. They are blatantly biased in favor of certain things. The people who control the NCAA are – surprise – from the NE corridor of the country. And who gets favored treatment every year? You guessed it.

    This one example proves beyond any doubt that the NCAA is biased. Count the number of times Duke has played NCAA tournament games in the state of NC. Then count the number of times ANY other team has played in their home state. It’s amazing how much favoritism they get. They even play WEST regional games in their home state. Or they did anyway. Now the winds of politics have caused the NCAA to boycott NC as far as playing the tournament there. How ironic is that?

    I have to say that the more the NCAA gets involved in politics the more I want to see that organization disbanded. I have abandoned watching pro football after 56 years of regular viewing because of their political stands. If the NCAA goes much further down the road they’re on I’ll abandon them too. I refuse to support any organization that promotes an agenda using tax money like they do. That goes for pro teams who play in tax payer funded stadiums and college teams who get all sorts of tax money.

    As much as I love the Cats I will drop support for all things NCAA if the situation gets much worse. Just as a hint I was once a devout fan of the Reds. I haven’t watched more than 3 games in the last 35 years because of the way they did things. That league was biased against the Reds in a big way so I dumped them. I’ll keep my money and I’ll spend my time doing other things. I watched nearly every Reds game in the days of the Big Red Machine. I stopped watching after the split season in 1981. I mean what I say. I was very close to UK’s program at one time. I got invited to be part of it as a player. It will hurt me big time to quit because I have bled blue since I was a small kid. But that time may come soon. I’m tired of the bias and corruption and the politics.

  5. One would think that the members of the press would be the group beating the accountability drum most often and loudest, yet, it is crickets from that group.

    1. They’re bought and paid for by the same conglomerate that controls the NCAA. No surprise the media is no friend of UK. They never have been going back to the late 40’s.

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