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Scathing memo urges referees to enforce sportsmanship rules

The NCAA's national coordinator of officials for mens basketball fired off a scathing memo on Thursday urging referees across the country to do a better job of enforcing sportsmanship rules.

John Adams posted the memorandum on the NCAA men's basketball officiating website. "In games I have attended, I have noticed minor unsporting indiscretions between opposing players go unnoticed by officiating crews and invariably, these unnoticed acts later turn into much bigger problems," Adams wrote. "Quite simply, we are doing a poor job of enforcing Rule 10, Section 5, as written."

Adams was referring to the passage in the basketball rulebook which governs the way referees should react to unsportsmanlike conduct. Sportsmanship was one of three main areas of emphasis as determined by the mens basketball rules committee last summer, but the sport has been sullied by several ugly incidents this season, most prominently a brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier in December that led to multiple player suspensions. That melee was ignited by trash talking between players and coaches.

In his memo, Adams specifically urged referees to enforce rules against taunting, profanity, and gestures like "waving off" an official after a call. He also reminded them that coaches should be immediately penalized if they leave the coach's box to complain about a call. "These types of actions call for technical fouls. Call them!" Adams wrote. "Your coordinators and commissioners will support you."

Reached by phone on Friday, Adams cited the decision to assess a technical foul on Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown for taunting after a dunk during the Cowboys' win over Missouri Tuesday night as an example of the type of enforcement he wants to see. That was Brown's second technical foul of the game, which warranted an automatic ejection. "I really felt like we had to have a call to action," Adams said. "Most coaches and players are good guys, but the aberrations are the ones that get the most attention, and that's something we have to deal with."

As the NCAA's national coordinator, Adams does not have the authority to sanction referees during the season, but he does have a major say in how referee are assigned to games during the NCAA tournament. He said Friday that the manner in which officials enforce sportsmanship conduct rules will have a bearing on those decisions.

"I don't mean it to be a threat, but this is an integral part of officiating. It's just as important as getting block/charge calls right," he said. "It's one of the issues we'll look at going forward to the NCAA tournament."

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