Over the next couple of weeks, as we approach March Madness in the college basketball season, I’d like to share two stories from my officiating background that afforded life long lessons. The first is this week’s blog: Get It Right!
It is the 2015-2016 college basketball season and on this particular Saturday, I’m officiating a game between Delaware and Towson University, at Towson. Delaware is winless in the league and scratching for a win. It is a hard-fought contest, tooth and nail, all the way to the end. Late in the game, #23 commits his fifth foul for Towson near the foul line area. My partner emphatically waves off the foul, turned his back to the play, waves his arms signaling a no basket call. My partner checked the scene again and reported the fifth and final foul on number 23, removing him from the game. As he turned around, again to check the scene and report the foul on #23, #33 was standing there instead. #23 had ran towards his bench in utter disappointment knowing it was his 5th foul. My partner reported the foul on #33. The other ref and were supervising the other players and waiting for play to continue when Delaware now questions, “who was the foul on?” I asked my partner who the foul was on and he said #33. Delaware huddled, spoke with one another and then once again said to me “Are you sure? Who’s the foul on?” Again, more emphatically, I asked my partner who the foul was on and he responded once more #33.
One of the most important components of officiating is to trust your partner. After asking him twice, I was confident in his answer and we moved on. As the game drew to a close, #23 for Towson hits a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game (see pic) and subsequently scored all seven points for Towson in overtime, earning them a close win. Delaware goes home still winless.
Maybe about a half-hour into my drive home after the game, I received a phone call from my supervisor asking about the play. I shared what happened, recounting that my partner confidently answered #33 when I asked who the foul was on. My supervisor asked me if I checked the monitor in that moment, which I was allowed to do by rule, to confirm who committed a foul or who was fouled. He told me he was sending me a video clip to review. I pulled into the nearest rest area and became sick to my stomach as I meticulously reviewed the clip. As my partner turned his back to wave off the basket, #23 knew he committed the foul and ran in anger out of the field of vision of my partner, leaving #33 standing there. That’s who he called the foul on.
As the head referee in the game, it was within the rules to confirm what happened on the floor. As you can see below in the letter of reprimand that I received, I should have checked the monitor. If there was doubt on the play on behalf of one of the teams, it was my responsibility to use the rules to do what is right for the game. This was the only letter of reprimand I received over my time officiating, but it left a profound impact on me, not only in my role as an official but also in my roles as a principal and father.
Use the rules to help you as much as you can in a variety of situations that arise. You can never go wrong when you answer a student, a parent, or a staff member in a situation when you answer with “by rule or by law.” When you look back at what you did in that situation, using the rules to your advantage will help you not only make the right call but also keep you safe in your job.
This letter of reprimand was extremely well written, but more importantly, they were correct. At that moment, I should have used the monitor and there might have been a different outcome for the game. We made a grave mistake, and as the head referee, it was my responsibility to confirm my partner’s decision by checking the monitor.
I hope you found the story useful and the next time you are in a precarious situation, do everything you can within the rules to help yourself get it right. If I can help you in any way don’t hesitate to reach out.
Quote: “Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat” – Dean Smith