As it turned out, the annual meeting of the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee this week was not a total flop.
Because from now on, if the committee’s proposals are adopted by an NCAA oversight panel, game officials will be empowered to call technical fouls on players they judge to be attempting to con their way into personal foul calls against the option.
In television, bad acting may get you a prominent position on “The Bachelor,” but in college hoops, it’ll be a Class B technical that’s worth two free throws to the opposition.
The flop warning made for a clever officiating signal, but it wasn’t getting all the phony charges and head-snaps out of the game. The possibility of presenting the other team with a free two points might convince the game’s amateur thespians to dispense with such theatrics.
That an offense in this area would not lead to the player being assigned a personal foul brings us to the more pressing item the committee considered and, unfortunately, chose not to dismiss on its face.
The members of the rules committee were asked to consider a proposal that would alter the way fouls are counted relative to disqualification. Rather than leave the current five-personal DQ in place — as every relevant statistic indicates they should — they chose to approve a needlessly complicated experiment that will confuse fans and likely decrease the quality of play.
The suggestion is for players to be allowed a maximum of three fouls in each half before being disqualified. So if a player gets four personals in the second half, he would be out of the game, even if he did not foul in the first half. If he fouls three times in the first half, he could foul twice in the second and continue playing.
This experiment is being suggested for the 2022 NIT, which would allow data to be collected on its operation before potentially being implemented at a later date.
In the NCAA.org release explaining the experiment, it is acknowledged that the reason for this suggestion is the growing reluctance on the part of college coaches to continue fielding players after they foul twice in the first half. So in order to fix something that easily could be remedied if coaches stopped employing a foolish, self-defeating tactic, the rules committee offers a rule that would make the game less attractive and appealing, more physical and perplexing.
This is where the Playing Rules Oversight Panel must do its job and tell the committee this isn’t even worth fouling up the NIT. One problem with the rules committee is the heavy representation of coaches, who too often make decisions that do not take into account the game’s public appeal.
That’s why the rule for secondary defenders attempting to draw a charge, changed in 2013 to make it more difficult to for the defense to jump in front of a drive to the basket and earn a call, was returned after one year. The charge rule is widely unpopular with fans, but coaches generally love it.
There is no pressing need to increase the foul limit for disqualifications. There were fewer personal fouls called during the 2020-21 season than at anytime since the NCAA began keeping statistics, in 1948. That’s a 73-year low.
Star players did not foul out with regularity. Of the 15 players on the Sporting News All-America team, there were only 13 disqualifications in 447 games played. The five members of the first team played an average of 33 minutes per game.
When the Big East experimented with a six-foul disqualification in the early 1990s, it led to a more physical brand of basketball. During the 1990-91 season, Connecticut and its opponents averaged 44 personal fouls per game; that’s 10 more fouls than were committed in an average game in 2020-21. More fouls mean more interruptions, more free throws, less actual basketball being played.
Some discussion about a six-foul DQ grew out of the two quick fouls called against Gonzaga All-American Jalen Suggs in the NCAA championship game. He drew his second personal foul after just 3 minutes, 4 seconds, and was immediately removed from the game by Zags coach Mark Few.
To his credit, Few did not strand Suggs on the bench for the remainder of the first half. Suggs wound up playing 33 minutes. That’s the exact same amount of playing time he got when the Zags had to recover from a double-digit deficit in the West Coast Conference title game against BYU. He committed only two fouls in that game.
Suggs was able to turn around the BYU game. He was not able to rescue the Zags against Baylor because Davion Mitchell would not permit it, not because of how many fouls Suggs carried.
“It is an out-of-the-box proposal,” committee chair Tad Boyle, head coach at Colorado, said in the NCAA’s release.
It should be stuffed back into that box.
And then burned.