College Basketball Players Need to Start Earning Charges

Jake LloydCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2009

The head honchos at ESPN picked a perfect night to put NBA commentator Jeff Van Gundy behind a microphone inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Anyone who has watched a broadcast featuring the irascible Van Gundy knows that he may be short and—to be nice—not the best-looking fellow. But he also doesn't hesitate to speak his mind, and most of the time he's right.

I was on press row for Duke's 79-67 win over Davidson Wednesday, and therefore didn't get to hear Van Gundy on the air. But I wasn't at all surprised when after the game a friend told me that Van Gundy had made a big stink about a number of charges that were called during the game.

I couldn't agree more.

And this wasn't just a case of "Duke getting all the calls." On both ends of the court, players were drawing charges while they stood, basically, under the basket. This has got to stop. While the officiating was subpar Wednesday, officials making such calls is not uncommon in the college game.

There are many things I like about college hoops that the pros need to adopt—the 1-and-1, for instance. But college basketball needs to take a hint from the NBA and institute the semi-circle rule for taking charges.

In pro basketball, a defender must be outside of the painted half-circle to draw a charge. This prevents a player from stepping in front of a player at the last second as that player is scoring a layup. It makes great sense, especially in the NBA where players are so athletic.

Can you imagine a small guard jumping in the path (or below) of LeBron James when James is in midair en route to a thunderous one-handed dunk...and a charge being called? Didn't think so.

Well, there are plenty of athletic players in college. And we all know that for a lot of players, college is just a one- or two-year basketball factory before they turn pro. So why not institute an NBA rule that would not only give refs a less arbitrary method of making the block-charge call, but would also help prepare college players for the next level?

When a good pass is made to an open player in the post and he turns right into a defender and puts up a layup as the defender flops to the ground, the basket should count and play should continue. It is ludicrous for the defender to "earn" a charge, not to mention cheers from the crowd, for doing nothing but flopping.

Alas, that's what happened a couple times during Wednesday's game. Van Gundy didn't ignore the indiscretions.

The problem is how endearing of a play taking a charge is. During the early stages of a player's development—during high school or even middle school—he's encouraged to "sacrifice his body" for the good of the team, to be a "team player." Taking a charge helps build team chemistry, helps teammates believe in each other and their dedication to the team.

That's all great and mushy, but no coach should be teaching players to attempt to take charges under the basket. Unfortunately, that's the case because the game is too often called that way—except in the NBA.

Charging calls aren't going away. Yes, there aren't as many called in the pros; instead, we have to watch the boring "block" get called more often, and who likes that? But there still are charges, those calls that pump emotion into players and fans (and even refs, it seems, as they thrust their arm forward the other way).

They, supposedly, mark special defensive plays. But I got the sense Wednesday that a charge meant hardly anything anymore. They were almost as regular and mundane as a blocking call. In fact, I think there were more charges than blocks called.

That should rarely, if ever, occur. Obviously, a change must be made.

And maybe ESPN should let Van Gundy work some more college games. Heck, somebody needs to point out the game's issues and solvable problems.