Running Zebras

The News & Observer ran a nice, long piece this weekend on college basketball referees, focusing largely on how much they work. I really didn’t realize how many games these guys officiate, but apparently it’s common for them to work 80-100 games a year!
Think about that. The guys are typically older and they are out there running up and down the whole game. No, they don’t run as much as the players, but they also don’t get to sub out and they don’t sit during timeouts. That’s a 40 minute game for each. Check this anecdote about the working schedule for Steve Welmer:

One non-ACC official, Steve Welmer, has worked more than 80 games. From Nov. 26 to Dec. 23, Welmer worked 28 straight days.

28 straight days! I checked online and it looks like Welmer is about 54 or 55 years old. Does it make sense that he could really be sharp working that many days in a row?
The thing is is that college refs are independent contractors who are paid by the game. The more they work, the more they are paid. In contrast, the NBA hires its refs as full-time employees and limits them to 14 or fewer games in a month and never more than two nights in a row.
In fairness, when I watch NBA games, the officiating doesn’t really look all that good, certainly no better than college games. NBA games seem rife with inconsistent calls. I have to think that despite that, they are physically and mentally fresher than their college counterparts.
Gottfried One other aspect of reffing that is touched on a bit in this article is a particular pet peeve of mine. That’s the issue of coaches and players yelling and complaining about calls. Maybe my memory is faulty or I’m just becoming a curmudgeon, but I don’t remember it being this bad 20 years ago. It amazes me what the refs allow coaches to get away with. To me, it sets a terrible precedent for kids to watch. They see Mike Krzyzewski and Gary Williams red-faced screaming in a guy’s face with no repercussions. Players get away with it to. It tells kids that you don’t really need to respect authority.
If I had any say in the matter, I’d make that a point of emphasis in future seasons. If you scream at a ref, it should be a technical foul. I understand that the game is passionate and tempers flare, but there’s no reason coaches and players couldn’t learn to control themselves. Ever notice how upset a coach gets if an opposing coach dares to utter a word in their direction? Clearly they think they deserve a lot more respect than they give the officials.

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