Central Maine Board 20 




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Iím sure you have all heard a coach or a fan say something to the effect of " I thought basketball was supposed to be a non-contact sport!" This tired old line usually comes when their team is getting waxed and a player from their team gets clocked with a perfectly legal screen. As you are well aware from officiating, basketball is very much a contact sport and we have been given the authority to determine if the contact that occurs throughout the course of a game constitutes a foul or not. It is clear that not all contact by opponents against each other is a foul. What shapes your judgment to make that determination? This article will discuss several items that an official needs to think about regarding contact on the floor and determining whether or not the contact constitutes a foul or is to be considered incidental contact.

In order to be a good official, one must not only know the rules and mechanics but must have an understanding of the "spirit and intent" of the rules before trying to apply them. We cannot officiate any game by the book. By that I mean, we cannot bring a strict interpretation of the rulebook to the floor and expect anyone to be happy with our performance. Also a good official understands the concept of "advantage/disadvantage" when making any ruling regarding contact. Rule 4, Section 27 makes is very clear that there is a lot of contact in the game of basketball that must be considered "incidental contact" and is not to be considered a foul. This rule states in part .."The mere fact that contact occurs does not constitute a foul. When 10 players are moving rapidly in a limited area, some contact is certain to occur." It further says, "contact which does not hinder the movement of the opponent from participating in normal defensive or offensive movements should be considered incidental". This rule outlines the advantage/disadvantage concept as has been preached for years. Officials are paid to make judgments!  Anyone can blow a whistle and call a foul if an opponent makes contact with another, but a good official can see the contact and make an immediate judgment as to whether or not the contact caused the receiving party to be put at a disadvantage. If so, call a foul, if not, let it go. Remember a "No Call" is often times the "Right Call."

A concept known as the "Tower Philosophy" sets the basis for using good judgment when officiating. In part the Tower Philosophy is as follows: " It is the purpose of the rules to penalize a player who by reason of an illegal act has placed his/her opponent and a disadvantage. It is not the intent that the rules shall be interpreted literally, rather they should be applied in relation to the effect which the action of the players has upon their opponents. If they are unfairly affected as a result of a violation of the rules then the transgressor shall be penalized. If there has been no appreciable effect on the progress of the game, then the game shall not be interrupted. The act should be ignored, as it is incidental and not vital. Realistically and practically, no violation has occurred." This provides all officials with a great foundation from which to build our own officiating style and philosophy.

I would like to point out a couple of areas where I feel we tend to call too many fouls rather than following the "Tower Philosophy" One of the areas is the over the back contact on rebounds. I think many of us have made that call and then wondered to ourselves why in the devil we blew the whistle. The player had inside position, got the rebound and landed soundly while getting ready for an outlet pass, and we call a foul because an opponent also trying to get the rebound bumped him from behind. There is no dispute about contact occurring, however the judgment having to be made by the official is, was the player put at a disadvantage by the contact.

Another area where I have seen a lot of fouls called when, in my opinion, a no call was the proper call is a bump by a defender on the dribbler in the backcourt or mid-court areas. I am not saying to let all of this contact go, but for the official to take a split second to determine if the contact put the dribbler at a disadvantage. Who is really being penalized if we call a foul on a bump when the offensive player is already past the defender and has a clear lane to the basket?

In the games that I have observed our newer officials, the area of judging contact is where I see the greatest variance in abilities. Some officials call everything, others call very little and there are those who are getting a good grasp of using the proper judgment when calling a game. Use of  the Tower Philosophy during all games that you officiate will result in you being more consistent with your calls, which will help you become a better official.

Doug Burdin  IAABO Board 20