June 21, 2018
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Officials make calls differently in tourney

By Bob Cimbollek, Special to the BDN


Three days into the Eastern Maine tournament at the Bangor Auditorium, now comes that often-asked question. Are the tournament games officiated any differently than regular-season games?

I have been asked by many basketball fans here in Eastern Maine this very question. My observations are strictly based on my experience — 29 years as a high school coach, 10 years as a radio and TV analyst and the other years as a fan. I have come to the conclusion that the answer is a resounding yes, especially in today’s games. Let’s look at a little history.

Games were officiated by two-man crews until the 1990s. Coaches turned in a list of 10 officials who they wanted to work their games. When I was at Orono in the ’60s, we always got at least one official from our list for every quarterfinal, semifinal, regional final and state final game.

Today all tournament games are officiated by three-person crews. The coaches still vote, but there is no guarantee they will get one from that list. The coaches’ votes are used more to build a pool of tournament officials than to determine who gets assigned to officiate their postseason games.

In checking over the scorebooks each year when I coached in the ’60s and ’70s, I found that personal fouls were up for tournament games compared to the regular-season games.

Why the difference in officiating between regular season and the tournament games today?

1) officiating before bigger crowds,

2) working pressure one-and-done games,

3) constantly being evaluated adds to the pressure,

4) also, if they wanted to work another game, then they had better call the game as the evaluators wanted in the past or wants them to do today,

5) working with officials that they did not work with during the regular season and not knowing if the coaches really wanted them to officiate the game,

6) officials not working many three-person games during the regular season until prelim or tournament games.

7) using three officials today with six eyes being able to see more than four eyes is probably the biggest of the seven reasons.

Answers 1 through 5 existed in the ’60s and ’70s, and Nos. 6 and 7 were added in the 1990s.

Also, because officials are not evaluated during their regular-season varsity game performances on a regular basis, if at all, then they are under more pressure during tournament games. They are officiating a game, but some could be worried about are they doing the things to warrant another game.

As a coach, all I was concerned about was the official getting the call right, and there was only one mechanic that was important in doing that. Was the official in their correct PCA (Primary Coverage Area) to make the correct call? I cared less what their other mechanics were, and many of today’s coaches feel the same way.

As a coach I always favored using three officials. We felt the games were called tighter with the better floor coverage, especially on cutters off the ball. Some years we hired three for all our home games, and sometimes for the last three home games to get ready for the difference in two-man and three-man crews, because the game is called differently with three officials than with two officials.

If tournament games are going to be officiated by three-person crews, then the regular-season games should also be officiated by three-person crews.

Good luck to all the teams, players and coaches for the remaining games.

Answer to last week’s trivia question about the L, M, S tournament sites before the current Bangor Auditorium was built in 1956: The L tournament was held at the University of Maine in the Pit. The M and S tournaments were held in the Brewer Auditorium, and then M and S were moved to the old Bangor Auditorium.


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