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John Adams: ‘We Try Never To Comment On Judgment Calls’

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(Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

(Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

After a pair of controversial block/charge calls influenced the outcome of two closely contested NCAA Tournament games – one involving Michigan versus Tennessee in the Sweet 16 and another involving Arizona versus Wisconsin in the Elite Eight – NCAA Director of Officials John Adams dropped by the John Feinstein Show to discuss the calls, as well as officiating in general

The calls in each game were heavily scrutinized, in part because changes were made to the block/charge rule last offseason.

“The rule was changed – and (it) only was changed with regard to players who go airborne to pass or shoot, and it was changed to allow more time for officials to get the play right,” Adams said. “So there’s a higher standard for the defender to meet, No. 1. But No. 2, we were trying to create a more timely window, if you will, to be able to ascertain whether the defender was legal and then what happened after that.

“So it wasn’t designed to come down one way or the other. You could guess maybe that there’d be more blocking fouls (at the) end of the day, because the bar was raised only on airborne passers and shooters. But the directive for the officials has always been judge the play (and) get the play right based on the factors of the moment.

“I think there were probably more blocks than charges (this year), No. 1. But I do think there were less block/charge plays in general. I think it became more risky for defenders to try to draw charges.”

Adams is fine with that.

“I think that the more athleticism that you can interject into the game, hopefully it’ll be a better game for the fans and the players and everybody that has a stake in the game,” he said.

Adams did not say whether he thought either call in the aforementioned NCAA Tournament games were correct.

“We try never to comment on judgment calls,” he said. “I can tell you about the rules involved in those plays, I can tell you about positioning. But second guessing either (official) – while that’s great for what I call the hot-stove league – (it) doesn’t really help the impression of the integrity of the game.

“I have the luxury, like you do, of running those plays back (several times) in slow motion,” Adams continued. “When we’re asking these guys to judge these plays on a moment’s notice, almost invariably I will support the judgment that they came up with at the time they made the call.

“I think the guys, when they blow the whistle, are incredibly accurate. Most of our problems in our games (come) from calls that are not made.”

Unfortunately, officials are unavailable for comment after games, and neither Feinstein nor Andrew Bogusch understands why. If a 19-year-old kid is put on the spot and held accountable for his actions in the final seconds of a game, why shouldn’t an official be subject to the same treatment?

Adams doesn’t see it that way.

“I feel just as strongly that the 19-year-old kid shouldn’t be put on the spot,” he said. “It is a game. It’s not Afghanistan. It’s not Iraq. This is a game of basketball. And on a lot of those plays that have occurred over the last two weeks, (they) generally – with the exception of maybe localized interest – have a shelf life of 24 to 48 hours. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. I’m just saying that’s the way (of) the world that we live in.”

Either way, don’t expect much to change.

“We’re never going to be at the level of transparency, I think, that everybody wants because of real privacy concerns,” Adams said. “And you can say (referees are) public figures. I had a call yesterday from some complete whack job from Lubbock, Texas, complaining about a play. Long story short, I don’t consider myself a terribly public figure, but this guy had my cell phone number and is blasting me. This is a game. We have a lot of fun with it, we make a living out of it. But at some point, I’d sure like to get some civility interjected back in the conversation.”

Feinstein reminded Adams that Jim Joyce, who famously missed a call that robbed Armando Galarraga of a perfect game in 2010, came out and admitted his mistake, thereby becoming a sympathetic – almost heroic – figure.

“There was indisputable video evidence that he missed it,” Adams said. “I think you could parse the (basketball) plays that you mentioned. Literally I can come down either side of it. It’s a 50/50 call. But Jim Joyce missed it by two feet. You couldn’t argue. The ball beat him. It was out, and he called him safe. I don’t know that he ever got any death threats.”

NCAA officials, apparently, have.

“We have an official that we couldn’t put in a game because either side of the game he gets death threats from the other team, Adams said. “Honest to God true story. Now to me, that’s the true definition of insanity.”

Feinstein also suggested the NCAA should hire full-time officials, rather than paying on a contract basis. Adams said that is a topic that will be up for debate, but added the NCAA already pays $30 million annually to officials. He estimated the NCAA would need 250 full-time officials to staff a 5,000-game season, and all of the officials would demand $150,000 a year or more, which would put the cost in excess of $50 million.

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