The Talk of the ACC : League Ponders Full-Time Basketball Officials

Washington Post

Fred Barakat, supervisor of officials in the Atlantic Coast Conference, is investigating the feasibility of hiring full-time referees to work league games next season.

"I'm doing it because our coaches have expressed interest in our hiring full-time officials," Barakat said. "Right now, though, my opinion is that we wouldn't improve the officiating and it would cost us an awful lot more money."

League coaches, most notably N.C. State's Jim Valvano, maintain there is not enough accountability for officials. They are paid $350 a game plus expenses for a part-time job. They do not have to talk to the media, and the league has an unwritten gag rule on coaches talking about officiating--a rule that is frequently violated.

Barakat said that hiring full-time officials would be costly not only because they would have to be paid salaries (probably $30,000-$35,000 annually), but also because the league would have to set up pension and insurance plans for the officials. But, Barakat said, the league could make the move unilaterally if coaches and athletic directors saw fit.

"We would lose 80% of our top officials because most of them wouldn't leave their current jobs," he said. "The question is, do we want to bite the bullet for five years training less experienced guys or do we want to go on like we are now with what I think is a pretty good system."

The coaches are not as happy with the current system. ACC referees this season were required to sign an agreement that they would not work a game in another league on the night prior to working an ACC game. One top official, John Clougherty, refused and has not worked in the league this season. Yet, the agreement is routinely broken. A week ago, for example, Dick Paparo worked games on three straight nights: Boston College-Syracuse Tuesday, LaSalle-Notre Dame Wednesday and North Carolina-Virginia Thursday.

When this happens, the excuse given is that the official involved had to fill in for someone who was sick or hurt.

Additionally, some of the errors this season have been remarkable. Two weeks ago, official Rusty Herring (who lives in Durham, N.C.) waved off a last-second basket by Duke's Mark Alarie that would have beaten Wake Forest in regulation. Even Wake Forest's coaches agreed that the shot was clearly good. Duke won the game in overtime but Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was furious that such an important call was so badly botched.

Last week, Paparo, generally considered one of the top officials in the country, messed up two calls during the last minute of Boston College's upset victory over Syracuse. First, he incorrectly called a five-second violation on BC's Michael Adams with the Eagles up by one. Then, in what looked like a blatant makeup call, he called Syracuse's Andre Hawkins for a blocking foul on Adams with one second left on what appeared to be an Adams charge. Adams' two foul shots won the game.

Barakat will present his report at the ACC's spring meetings. Although he would not flatly say that he is against the idea, it is pretty clear that if the coaches push the concept, he will fight it. Still, Commissioner Robert James' decision to have Barakat put together the report is an indication that the game is moving closer to the day when all leagues will go to full-time referees.

One of the more amusing characters in college basketball has to be North Carolina public address announcer Kearney Andrews. Andrews, a fixture at Carolina for years, drives about 100 miles each way to games and has to be one of the great "homer" P.A. men in the game.

Almost never does a Tar Heel make a basket without Andrews crediting an assist--even when there is none. On the other hand, Andrews never announces an assist by a visiting player. Once this year Andrews even announced, "basket by Kenny Smith, screen by Brad Daugherty." Coach Dean Smith had to love that one.

A week ago, when Virginia's Mel Kennedy was fouled as he made a driving layup, Andrews, obviously displeased with the call, announced, "Basket ruled good, by Kennedy."

Basketball needs more Kearney Andrews.

Recruiting tidbits: Duke's students, knowing that the duel for Danny Ferry, DeMatha's 6-foot-10 star, is down to Duke and North Carolina, serenaded older brother Bob, a Harvard senior, with chants of "We want your brother," when the Crimson played at Duke on Feb. 4.

Who was on campus at N.C. State last weekend? Mike Giomi, the 6-7 forward dropped by Indiana Coach Bob Knight for cutting classes. One would hazard the guess that Giomi could manage to get into State if he chose to transfer there. He will have one year of eligibility wherever he goes.

Speaking of N.C. State, the revelations that 6-11 freshman Chris Washburn--currently off the team because he stole a stereo from another student in December--scored 470 on the college boards seems to have gotten to Coach Jim Valvano.

Normally Mr. Media, Valvano reacted angrily when a local TV crew showed up in his office the next day. Valvano cursed at the crew, put his hand over the camera, ordered them out of the building and stomped away angrily. The TV station aired the incident.

Chancellor Bruce Poultrie has given Valvano the authority to decide whether Washburn will return to the team. Washburn's interview with a sympathetic Al McGuire on NBC last weekend may have been the first step in justifying his return to the team.

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