MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — Long before Marcus Smart pushed a Texas Tech fan two rows deep in the bleachers, and pushed the NCAA to clarify its rule on such altercations, Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw feared fan behavior had grown too unruly.
“It has gotten drastically worse,” Shaw told the “Statewide Sportsline” crew Wednesday night.
Hours before Shaw’s guest appearance, the NCAA clarified a gray area by noting that players who enter the stands to interact with fans must be assessed a flagrant 2 foul, leading to an automatic ejection.
That’s fine, yet Shaw wants verbally abusive fans to be tossed also.
“We’ve pushed the boundary of what’s athletics and sports and fanaticism into absolute idiocracy,” Shaw said. “You all of a sudden have 30- or 40- or 50-year-old people sitting in close proximity to the court who think they can say or do anything they want to an 18- or 19-year-old kid.”
Before Shaw stopped working as on-the-court official in 2010, he confronted fans who thought buying a ticket provided them carte blanche to fire slurs at players and referees. Shaw claimed that once, while setting up an in-bounds play at Oklahoma State, he was shoved in the back by a fan who was ticked at a call.
If the NCAA sets a stricter policy on fan etiquette, as Shaw advocates, he said schools would have a fallback for telling high-dollar donors to clean up their act.
“Go cheer, go be a fan for your team and boo when a referee makes a mistake—hey, that’s part of the game,” Shaw said. “But the personal insults and some of the things that are said directly to you are intolerable.”
MIDSEASON RULES REVIEW
Midway through the first season of cracking down on defensive contact, Shaw said said the rule changes essentially are working and “we’re seeing a more free-flowing game.”
The biggest strides have been made in negating perimeter contact, Shaw said, allowing players like West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten to excel.
“Everything that he has been able to do, I think in a way, you an attribute to the rules,” Shaw said. “If we allowed the physical play that had been allowed over the last five to eight years, he may not be as effective because he relies on that speed and athleticism and not just brute strength.
“Under the old rules he was allowed to be held, bumped and pushed more and more off the ball. He’s a perfect example of how the new rules have helped the game.”
With scoring up by more than four points per team and fouls only having increased by about 1.5 per team, Shaw said players have adjusted to playing more hands-free defense.
Yet he admitted the block/charge call remains a mess. Part of that complexity comes from a defender having a different benchmark for being in legal position based on whether or not the offensive player leaves the floor.
“It’s still a very difficult play,” said Shaw, suggesting more tweaks are necessary to simplify the block/charge wording. “As a referee, there’s about four to five different aspects on every split-second block/charge call that I’ve got to try to sort through, and I’m not sure you can do it.”