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Basketball rules committees address court surface issues

By Greg Johnson

Citing temporary decals and logos that may cause players to slip, the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Rules Committees are recommending a rules change that requires the court be “of a consistent surface” so student-athlete safety is not compromised.

The committees believe most surfaces already are in compliance, but no rule exists requiring a consistent surface. In some cases, temporary decals can create a difference on the floor that may cause players to lose their footing.

All rules proposal must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to meet via conference call June 12. 

While this is a non-rules change year, committee members believe this change should be effective for the 2012-13 season for student-athlete safety purposes. The committees have asked NCAA staff to work with appropriate facility managers and court manufacturers to provide resources and best practices to the membership.

Members of both committees, which conducted their annual meeting May 6-8 in Indianapolis, agreed that “the playing court must be completely finished in a manner that is consistent throughout.”

This rules change does not restrict the use of decals, but it does make clear that those marks must be similar to the rest of the court. This includes the three-foot sideline and restricted area behind the baseline.

The host game management will be responsible for ensuring the court is of a consistent finish, including any logos or decals that are legally allowed on the floor.

Members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches were briefed on the rules proposal last week and were supportive of making sure the playing surface was a safe environment.

Rules committee members cited times they’ve seen players slip on areas not consistent with the rest of the court. They are suggesting that any additional logos or decals have the same kind of traction as the rest of the floor.

“The safety of our student-athletes has to come before anything else,” said John Dunne, the chair of the men’s basketball rules committee and coach at St. Peter’s. “We’re seeing players slip on the non-consistent parts of the floor too many times.”

Dunne said the committees have talked about this change in the past.

“Sometimes it takes a high-profile event to make a rules change,” Dunne added. “But we don’t want to sit back and wait for injuries to happen and then pass the rule.”


Both committees also recommended more stringent adherence to officiating guidelines regarding bench decorum by coaches and bench personnel next season.

Committee members believe the following behaviors hurt the image of the game and should result in a technical foul against the coach or other bench personnel:

  • Comments directed at or referring to any game official that question the integrity of an official (repeated references to the number of fouls called against each team; suggesting an official is cheating” a team, etc.).
  • Profane, vulgar, threatening, or derogatory remarks or personal comments relating to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation directed at or referring to any game official or opposing player/bench personnel.
  • Prolonged, negative responses to a call/no-call that are disrespectful or unprofessional and include waving or thrashing the arms in disgust, dramatizing contact by re-enacting the play, or running or jumping “in disbelief” over a call/non-call.
  • A negative response to a call/no-call that includes approaching/charging an official in a hostile, aggressive or otherwise threatening manner; emphatically removing one’s coat in response to a call/no-call; or throwing equipment or clothing on to the floor.
  • Continual criticism during a game regarding the same incident after being warned by an official.

Committee members understand that there will be spontaneous reactions to calls, but they don’t want coaches to cross the line with officials.

“Emotion is a big part of the game, and you don’t want to take it out of the game,” Dunne said. “But you can still be emotional without displaying unsportsmanlike behavior.”

The Men’s College Basketball Officiating, LLC Board of Managers assisted and supported the development of more specific guidelines in this initiative. The MCBO, composed of NCAA conference commissioners, was developed to encourage consistent officiating nationally.

Monitor reviews

Both committees talked broadly about the use of video replay monitors during the game.

The women’s committee split into working groups and discussed areas to monitor, such as which calls fall under correctable errors and technical fouls. Thatled to a discussion about whether monitor reviews hurt the flow of the women’s game.

“We want to give our officials a tool to get the plays right,” said Leslie Claybrook, women’s basketball rules committee chair and assistant commissioner for championships at the Southeastern Conference. “But we don’t want unnecessary stoppages of play. We want officials to use the monitor when something egregious has occurred or has a significant impact in the game.”

Key in the discussion is whether the last few minutes of a contest merit different treatment.

“We are asking ourselves questions like, are we considering the last minute of a game to be more important than the previous 39 minutes?” Claybrook said. “The bottom line is the technology is here to stay, and it’s not going anywhere.”

The men’s committee discussed the last minute of the game as a potential area to expand the use of the monitor to get calls right. With the expanded acceptance of technology, the committee will continue to review the appropriate use.

The women’s committee also decided not to tinker with the rule that allows teams to have electronic devices such as tablets and laptops on the bench. These are allowable in the women’s game for keeping statistics, but they cannot be used to transmit information. The men’s committee discussed this and will continue to prohibit these devices on the bench, regardless of purpose.

Men’s Officiating Guidance

The men’s committee reviewed blocking and charging plays and the impact of the three-foot restricted area arc. The committee believes that in some cases thecall is not being made correctly, sometimes giving the defense an advantage.

To help address this, the committee approved guidelines to help better administer these rules:

  • Before the offensive player (with the ball) becomes airborne, the defender must have two feet on the floor, be facing the opponent and be stationary to draw a charge. Otherwise it should be a blocking foul.
  • Secondary defenders (help defenders) moving forward or to the side are also in violation, and these should be blocking fouls.
  • Contact that is “through the chest” is not de facto proof of a charge. The rule in its entirety must be considered before determining a foul.
  • In some cases, it appears that a defender is being rewarded solely for being outside the arc, without considering the other aspects of the rules.

The committee plans a more thorough review of several other areas during the next year and will continue to develop better guidance for officials as needed.

Women’s chair

Eastern Illinois Athletics Director Barbara Burke was nominated to be the next chair of the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee.

If the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approves, she will replace Claybrook, who is rotating off the committee.