With his sturdy, 6-foot-3 inch frame, his perma-tan, light brown floppy hair and, most of all, his high-profile assignments — including six Final Fours and the 2013 NCAA championship game — John Higgins has become the most recognizable referee in college basketball. That is not always a good thing.
His familiarity to television viewers, combined with his penchant for calling technical fouls, have subjected him to considerable mockery and loathing.
Soon after he worked the epic triple-overtime game between Kansas and Oklahoma on Jan. 19, he received a threatening email at his business. He forwarded it to the FBI.
"If I looked at everything people wrote or said about me, I'd be a basket case," Higgins said.
According to the website bbstate.com, Higgins has worked 59 games this season. That put him in a three-way tie for second among all Division I officials, with David Hall's 61 setting the pace. During one stretch in early January, he traveled 4,800 miles over three days.
Higgins often gets paid more than $3,000 per game. The more games he refs, the more money he makes. Though he could work every single day if he wanted, he gives himself every Friday and most Mondays off, and he disagrees with the suggestion that his performance suffers because he calls so many games. "I'd ask you, do you work five days a week?" he retorts. "I work five days a week for two hours a day. That's less than most people. Yes, I spend a lot of time on airplanes, but if you keep yourself mentally and physically healthy, it's no big deal."
That Big 12 officiating coordinator, Curtis Shaw, has heard occasional complaints about Higgins's heavy workload from coaches. Yet, he continues putting Higgins on the most important games because Higgins is among the very best at what he does. "A coach will say to me, 'He's working too many games.' So I'll say, 'O.K., I'll take him out of your game.' Then they say they don't want that," Shaw says. "John is a tremendous play-caller. When push comes to shove, in our business it's about getting plays right."
Higgins does not dispute the impression that he calls more technical fouls than most of his peers. "I'm not disagreeing, and I'm not apologizing," he says. "We're supposed to enforce the rules as written, right? The NCAA is always preaching sportsmanship, sportsmanship, sportsmanship. You can eat a little crow if you know you probably screwed a play up, but when you let coaches and players and coaches act like idiots, you lose all credibility. I try not to let it happen in my games, that's for sure."
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DELAY OF GAME ENFORCEMENT:
Greetings to all:
It has come to my attention that there may be different interpretations of how we should enforce the delay of game procedures for disqualified players, injured players and time-outs.
First let’s look at the rule(s):
Rule 4, Section 10, Art. 1.g and Art. 2:
Art. 1: A delay is any action that impedes the progress of continuity of the game. Such actions include but are not limited to: (g.) Delaying the game by failing to resume play immediately following the second horn indicating the end of a time-out or when a disqualified or injured player must be replaced.
Art. 2: One team warning shall be given for each of the delays in Rule 4-10.1d through g. Each warning shall be reported to the official scorer and recorded in the scorebook. Thereafter, a technical foul shall be assessed for the delay that has previously received a team warning.
Rule 10, Section 4, Art 4.2.g
Art. 2: A technical foul (after a warning) shall be assessed to a coach and all bench personnel for the following infractions: g. The head coach failing to replace a disqualified player within 15 seconds or an injured player within 20 seconds when a substitute is available or failing to resume play immediately following the second warning horn indicating play is to resume following a time-out.
The administering official has primary responsibility in determining if a team is causing a delay and not immediately ready to begin play. The two other officials have secondary responsibility. If a team is not imminently ready to put the ball in play issue a delay of game warning per rule and subsequently issue a Class B technical foul.
As officials we still have the responsibility to know whether a player is delaying putting the ball back in play:
1) Player standing by the administering official ready to put the ball in play – acceptable.
2) Team has broken the huddle prior to the second horn and the thrower-in is within a reasonable distance and making his way to the throw in spot – acceptable.
3) Team has broken the huddle prior to the second horn, but the players are still standing near the bench listening to the coach and not allowing the ball to be put in play immediately – unacceptable.
As officials, we still must judge whether the team/players are ready to resume play or whether they are in fact delaying the process by impeding the progress of continuity of the game. It is important that we all make this philosophic and habit change for the benefit of the game.
NCAA National Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officiating