June 22, 2009

New charge rule gets mixed reaction

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - When asked about an NCAA rule change that essentially does away with offensive fouls being called under the basket, Purdue's Robbie Hummel, who frequently takes charges, laughed.

"I guess that's going to put me out of business," the junior quipped.

Now, secondary defenders - i.e. "help" defenders - can no longer establish position underneath the basket, defined in this case as the area located between the backboard and the front of the rim. It's being informally called the "three-feet rule."

If defenders are determined by officials to be in that forbidden zone when drawing contact from offensive players, they'll be called for a blocking foul, even if they've established set position that would formerly make for a charge.

In the NCAA's announcement of the change, rules editor Ed Bilik said its intent is to limit contact under the basket, citing feedback from coaches and survey data as the impetus behind the change.

While the new rule will make for an adjustment for players and coaches, the group it might impact most is the actual officials charged with making the calls, snap decisions that will not be easy. It was difficult enough for officials to determine whether charge-takers were established in stationery position pre-contact before. Now, that same decision must be made, only now with their proximity to the rim complicating it.

"The coaches were already upset last year because they felt like more technicals were passed out than normal," said David George, who officiates Mid-Central College Conference games in Indiana.

"... If you have to make a call like this based mostly on assumption of where the player was, that's going to just fuel the fire."

Eric Harmon, the MCC's supervisor of officials and a former Big Ten referee of 23 years, said he believes the change puts an undue burden on officials.

It's his understanding that the NCAA will not require floor markings to designate the new "no-charge" zone.

"It puts more pressure on the official," Harmon said. "It becomes, 'Well, was he within three feet?' and all that."

The new college rule mirrors that of the NBA, which does mark its floors, with an arc extending several feet from the rim.

"In the NBA, they have it, but they don't play zone defense," Harmon said, "and it only concerns the primary defender. In college, you have a lot of zone, so you have a lot of secondary guys in there. It's going to be a very, very difficult call to make.

"Now, a lot of [calls] will be obvious, but with others, there's a grey area and it might not be as obvious. It's going to put officials in a tough position."

As for the players, Purdue senior Chris Kramer, another noted drawer of offensive fouls, acknowledges the change might cost Purdue a couple of calls, but he otherwise likes the new rule.

"I think it's good," said Kramer, a former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. "I don't think you should get faulted if you beat somebody for a layup or a dunk and you're finishing at the basket, but someone's right there trying to take a charge underneath.

"It'll definitely create a lot more and-ones, because guys are still going to be trying to take charges under the basket."

Purdue associate head coach Paul Lusk is among those who'd like to see floor-markings to help eliminate ambiguities in calls. But he says he doesn't expect the change to impact how coach Matt Painter and his staff coach defense.

"I don't think it changes anything with us," Lusk said. "We're always going to be a program and a team that tries to take charges. I think if there were markings on the floor, you'd just have to work on getting outside that area to take your charge.

"But we try to take charges outside the paint, too. It doesn't always happen in games, but it won't change that, either."


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