Rutgers decision haunts Big Ten

Pat Forde does his usually excellent job summarizing the Rutgers dumpster fire and the mess this has created for Jim Delany and the Big Ten.

But he also throws in an interesting nugget that explains some of the motivation behind targeting Rutgers in the first place. Big Ten dictator Jim Delany IS FROM NEW JERSEY, and his obsession with getting the Big Ten exposure in the New York market led him to the mediocre program.

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How are the officials assigned for March Madness?

As part of Pat Forde’s latest column, he describes how the NCAA coordinator of officials assigns referees to work each game.

The Minutes caught up with NCAA coordinator of officials John Adams (48) last week to see how he will be viewing the tournament and his refs’ role in it.

On Friday at 5 p.m., the NCAA e-mailed the 96 officials who will be working the tournament to tell them they’re in. At 5:45 p.m. Sunday, Adams got an advance copy of the bracket and began slotting in crews for individual games — he’d already decided which crews were going to which sites. The job of matching crews to specific games is largely an effort to ensure there is no potential conflict of interest — putting two refs who do a preponderance of SEC games on an LSU game, for instance.

On Sunday night, the tournament site managers will get on the phone and call the officials coming to their subregion, informing them whether they’re working just one day or two. Adams, who wants to get some new blood moved into the elite ranks of officiating, said at least 10 rookies will get the call.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., Adams will have a conference call with his refs. He’ll go over general issues and protocol — when it’s OK to look at a monitor, when it’s not, etc. And he’ll remind them of the points of emphasis that have been in place all season: traveling, illegal screens, block/charge calls, etc. He’ll reiterate that they should keep conversations with coaches to a minimum.

“We’ve spent all year getting ready for this,” said Adams, who has seen 67 games in person and countless more on TV.

Then the refs go do their thing, and Adams hunkers down in Indianapolis with NCAA staffers Greg Shaheen and Tom Jernstedt in front of a bank of televisions to watch them work. In concert with tournament administrators at every site, they’ll determine which refs keep working and which go home.

The on-site administrators will fill out rating cards on every ref with one of three judgments: strongly recommend to advance; recommend to advance; do not recommend to advance. Those cards will be sent to Adams.

The group will be cut from 96 to 48 to 36, and ultimately to nine for the Final Four — three for each game. Just like the teams, they’re all striving to advance.

“It’s very competitive,” Adams said. “They’re all trying to get to Detroit.”

Adams will be watching to see who handles the pressure of close games and heavy scrutiny. He knows basketball officials are subject to more second-guessing than ever.

“It’s hard to keep a secret anymore,” he said. “If you make a mistake, everyone sees it replayed. The media and so many people can see these games, and so many are close.

“To some people it’s rarely the kid who screws up, it’s the referee. It works better that way.”

In many ways it’s a thankless task, but it has its rewards. For nine men, the reward is a trip to the Final Four. Adams is watching to determine which nine earn it.

It’s interesting how the competition for the officials mirrors that of the players. It also seems that the officiating on the college level is far superior than that of the NBA. Why is that?

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