NCAA begins new strategy for officials

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA thinks it has a corporate solution for all those college basketball coaches upset with inconsistent calls.

On Tuesday, the national governing body said it had formed limited liability companies for officials in hopes of putting all the rules under one consistent banner.

"The way a game is called in the West should be no different than a game in the East," Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference commissioner Rich Ensor said in a statement released by the NCAA. He chaired the task force that came up with the plan to form the two limited liability corporations.

One perception is that the Big East and Big Ten permit more rugged play during the conference season than is typically allowed during the NCAA tournament, and that can hurt those teams when it comes to postseason play.

NCAA officials are hoping that by creating two organizations -- one for refs who call men's games and another for those who call women's games -- they can better coordinate points of emphasis and consistency of calls.

It's not the first time the NCAA has tried something like this. In 2007, the NCAA adopted a similar strategy for college football referees, a move NCAA officials say has provided more consistency with player safety concerns and the implementation of instant replay.

The basketball goals are different, with an emphasis on consistent standards, standardized education and evaluation programs and an expanded pool of officials.

"Conferences invest time and resources into officiating, but right now we operate in our own officiating world," said Gloria Nevarez, senior associate commissioner of the Pac-10 and the first chair of the women's officiating board of managers. "In this structure, we can roll out initiatives at a national level that can help improve officiating."

Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton will chair the men's group. Nevarez and Fullerton will each serve two-year terms, though neither group will assign officials. Conferences will still make those decisions.

"It is something that has been long overdue," Fullerton said. "We know college basketball fans expect a different game than any other levels of basketball. The best time to start something new is right now."