April 30, 2007
When I look at the landscape of college basketball, I feel there should be a few rule changes to help make the sport even better.
I have been screaming for years about the jump ball situation and the alternate possession rule. My thoughts have fallen on deaf ears. I see nothing positive about the rule as it is now. I don't want to hear that it eliminates officials throwing the ball up, trying to be accurate with his toss. What happens during the course of the game, teams get their share of possessions.
My concern is that you penalize a club playing good defense. It is absolutely wrong to have that happen and I will continue to scream about that rule.
Another rule that should be changed is the number of fouls leading to disqualification. When you look at the sport through the years, the players have gotten bigger and stronger, yet the court remains 94x50, and the lane has not been widened. It is difficult for those zebras to determine what happens, especially in the post area, where there is so much physical contact.
A referee can blow his whistle at will and have legitimate claims. Sometimes they let people fight for position, others call ticky tack fouls that lead to players sitting on the pine.
Let me tell you, I personally believe basketball is the only sport that severely penalizes its players. Guys are sent to the sideline because of a whistle, while that doesn't happen in baseball, hockey, tennis or golf to this level. When a coach prepares his team, he knows his star quarterback is going to be out there, for the player to perform and get the job done. Yes, he can make a bad pass and that makes a difference, but getting called for causing four false starts won't lead to disqualification.
You can prepare in basketball for the superstars, but a referee can change a game with foul calls. Look back to the Final Four and remember how people were jazzed up to see the battle of the Goliaths in Greg Oden of Ohio State and Georgetown's Roy Hibbert. You don't see big stars in the post going head-to-head too often these days, so this was going to be something special. Both of these guys were in college and not the NBA.
People talked about Patrick Ewing vs. Akeem Olajuwon and Ewing vs. Ralph Sampson. That's how pumped up people were looking forward to this showdown.
Less than three minutes into the game, Oden picked up two fouls and he sat the next 17 minutes on the bench. He played a total of 20 minutes. Hibbert picked up his share of fouls and only logged 24 minutes in that contest.
Fans pay major dollars to see the stars and they were sitting on the bench instead of shining on the hardwood. They became assistant coaches for half the game.
Here is my plan to change that. Expand the foul situation to six. We have done things to enhance the sport, why not do this. The Big East tried it. I could never understand why that never happened.
I would even go a step further. I would give the coach the right to keep his star player in after his sixth foul. Then, for each additional foul, the opponent would receive two free throws and the basketball, a major factor. The star player has worked so diligently to be the catalyst of their team. Let him pay the price for a seventh foul and beyond.
People are not going to foul all the time because the penalty is stiff. At least this rule would allow fans who pay good money to see the stars on the court instead of on that bench. It wouldn't be as frustrating.
Oden probably felt after that game against Hibbert that he should go to the NBA right away because the college foul situation left him on the bench.
These are just a few suggestions to make the game I love better.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.