Big Ten Should Discontinue Basketball Because of Terrible Officiating

Bill SmithAnalyst IFebruary 19, 2012

No blood no foul
No blood no foulJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Open letter to the NCAA from Big Ten basketball fans:

Please excuse any Big Ten officials from duty during the NCAA tournament.  Our officials (if you can
call them that) are blind, deaf and seemingly unaware of the rules of the game.  We have seen over the last several years a form of tackle basketball that is not conducive to producing a legitimate champion from any tournament.

In addition, the Big Ten officials do not have the foot speed to maintain proper mechanics for a seventh grade girls’ game let alone college men or women athletes.

Sincerely, former Big Ten basketball fans.


Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game, watched the first basketball game played.  At one
point there was a foul and the official called him down from the stands to help decide how many shots should be awarded.  He came up with a guideline which is still used today.

“One if by hand, two if by knee.”

I will admit that basketball is the most difficult sport to officiate.  In the late 60s I was the head official of an industrial basketball league that had some end of the bench NBA players participating.  After a few
games, I came to the realization that I was not good enough to officiate that level of the game.

The results of tackle basketball
The results of tackle basketballElsa/Getty Images

Part of the issue was my eyes.  They were more than quick enough for officiating football but not for basketball.  I could not allow the men who worked so hard to have the outcome of a game depend on a bad call I made.  It would seem that the Big Ten officials have no such dedication to the sport.

I have many issues with officials in the Big 10.  Part is something seen in all sports. 

Way too often officials act as if the fans are there to see them rather than the game. We see it in baseball all the time.  Umpires will throw out players and managers that dare to question their
authority or wisdom.

As a coach, I was often in trouble for arguing with officials about calls.  I did it because I could not stand to see the guys that worked so hard to prepare to play the game be cheated because a zebra with a whistle was too lazy or slow to get into the right position to make a call.  As a color man on the radio I also got reprimanded for pointing out the bad calls to the listeners.  But I had to tell the listeners then and my listeners now what I see and think.  If I am not honest, I will lose all the credibility with the listeners and the readers.

The Big Ten refs call fouls that never happened and fail to see muggings under the basket.  The
officials in that league seem to swallow their whistles when it comes to fouls by the home team.  The calls are almost always very one sided.  But if a coach speaks out, he is the one that gets fined or suspended.  But the officials continue to make bad call after bad call with no punishment or comment from the league.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the debacle is that the ESPN announcers refuse to see the errors and be public about them.  They do comment that they did not see a foul but overlook it for the sake of their deal with the league.

LINCOLN, NE - JANUARY 21: Bo Spencer #23 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Lenzelle Smith Jr. #32 of the Ohio State Buckeyes fight for a loose ball during their game at The Devany Center January 21, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Ohio State defeated Nebraska 78
Eric Francis/Getty Images

I accept and understand that there will be bad calls in games.  Refs are human and will make mistakes.  However, the number and severity of bad calls in Big Ten basketball are unacceptable.  There is no justification for an official not having correct mechanics.  If he is too old or slow to get into position to make a call, he should turn in his whistle and officiate tiddlywinks tournaments.

If the league cannot find a way to improve the officiating of basketball, it should drop the sport altogether.  It is a waste of time and money to continue to play games officiated by incompetent, old, overweight, sight-challenged officials like these.  

That is what I think.  Tell us what you think.

If you want a different look at Cleveland Sports, join me on the Internet radio version of News, Notes and Rumors M-Th at 6 PM EST on

Follow me @NNRonDSN 

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has
done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent.
He edits  He has
also published several novels on
and a non-fiction work at