NCAA wants crackdown on coaches' antics

The removal of slippery decals from basketball courts -- something we can all agree on -- isn't the only recommendation the NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Rules Committees (MWBRC?) made to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP -- now there's a handy acronym) Monday.

There are a handful of interesting potential rules changes or applications in this release, including an update on the block-charge rule, a topic we'll discuss in more detail later in the week. Also among the potential changes? A crackdown, for lack of a better term, on sideline antics in response to calls made by officials during the games.

Under the topic heading "Sportsmanship," the NCAA said both committees "recommended more stringent adherence to officiating guidelines regarding bench decorum by coaches and bench personnel next season." Among the behaviors the basketball rules committee believes "hurt the image of the game" and should be penalized with technical fouls are obvious -- things like continued comments to or about referees regarding foul disparities or "cheating" a team, profane comments referring to "race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation," things like that. Those should probably be obvious technicals anyway. But the NCAA also included the following items:

  • 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.

Those types of things are downright common in college basketball. Coaches have for many years been given relatively free license to throw temper tantrums on sidelines, and oftentimes their assistant aren't far behind. It's gotten to the point that if you watch a lot of college basketball (or the NBA game, for that matter), you're almost anesthetized to it. Coaches leave their boxes. They scream and flail and plead for calls. They make funny, faux-shocked expressions. It's so rampant it has long since stopped registering.

But such a push dovetails with what NCAA national officiating coordinator John Adams' wrote to his refs in a much-publicized January memo. Adams' was mostly concerned with instances of on-court taunting -- players hanging on the rim after dunks, staring each other down, and other similarly nefarious activities -- but he also included a point of emphasis for officials regarding the behavior of sideline personnel:

"Article 2 deals with the conduct of bench personnel," Adams wrote. "If a coach is out on the floor complaining about a call, it is not your job to walk him back. It is your job as an official to assess a technical foul for violating the provisions of 10-5-2, a,b,c, e or f. If a coach is gesturing and complaining across the floor at you to the point where he has ignored a warning to stop, DON'T go across the floor to have a 'baseball umpire confrontation' with him, just assess him a Technical foul."

If I had to rank the college game's on-court problems, I'd put coaches' behavior pretty low on the list. (Remember that block-charge tease? Exactly.) But it is a problem nonetheless. If the new emphasis is enforced properly, it will surely be a net positive, if only for the pace of the game. And, yes, it will be strangely satisfying to see coaches -- grown men and tantrum-throwers extraordinaire -- forced to close their mouths and put their arms at their sides and juts accept the call, disagree with it though they may.

At the very least, my hope is this: The NCAA's increased crackdown will trickle down, urging the nation's rec league referees to be less inclined to listen to failed high school basketball players pretending to be Rick Pitino for 40 minutes every Tuesday night. If my calculations are correct, this will spurn a 45 percent increase in my enjoyment of rec league basketball. Fingers crossed!