Graying of the Officiating Pool: Are Older Basketball Referees Too Old?
Most NCAA referees are perceived to be in “decent shape,” according to a nationwide survey of college basketball coaches conducted by the Sports Officiating Research Institute. However, several college coaches expressed concern about the fitness of older officials.
According to Dr. Jimmie Flores, founder of the Sports Officiating Research Institute, officiating veterans are recognized as having significant experience. But several coaches surveyed in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Coach Survey commented that older referees “do not move like they used to” and “a few are too old and can’t get in position during a fast paced game.” Flores said this finding suggests the graying of the NCAA’s referee pool may compromise the quality of officiating.
In the survey, one coach described the NCAA officiating pool as “too many grumpy old men.” Another reported frustration with the NCAA for using such referees. “There are still way too many guys doing our games who have no business officiating at this level—they have proven that it is too much for them yet they [the scheduling coordinators] keep sending them out.” Flores said some coaches expressed concern that the current scheduling system is not based on performance—but a ‘good old boys’ network.”
The need for quality referees is particularly important in the middle of March Madness and the road to the Final Four tournament each season.
In addition to observations about the fitness of some referees, Flores said coaches expressed concern about a shortage of qualified officials. Some of the study’s participants indicated the shortage of experienced officials aggravates fitness and mobility problems.
Flores, who is a Division I men’s basketball referee and graduate of the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies, said the NCAA does not limit the number of games officials can work each week. As a result, some coaches feel veteran referees are overworked. “Officials should be limited to a set number of games per week,” one coach suggested. “It would motivate the younger guys by giving them a chance to ddo a few ‘bigger’ games, and keep the older guys fresher throughout the season.”
The results of the national study found most coaches want officials limited to about four games per week, Flores said.
The study was based on responses from 138 NCAA school representatives, typically coaches, in charge of evaluating the performance of men’s basketball officials. The nationwide sample included the opinions of representatives from 40% of Division I schools and 97% of NCAA conferences. (Flores, 2009)
The Sports Officiating Research Institute is dedicated to the study of sports officiating. Located in San Antonio, the organization focuses on the systematic collection and analysis of data to improve the quality and performance of officials representing a variety of sports.
You can download a copy of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Officiating report, which was prepared in collaboration with University of Phoenix faculty members Dr. Ruby A. Rouse, Dr. Rich S. Schuttler and Dr. Judith B. Kaplan.
Flores, Jimmie. (2009). NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Coach Survey 2008-2009 Season. Sports Officiating Research Institute.