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Baranek: IHSA asking officials to enforce rules by the book

DavSmith from Homewood Flossmore tucks ball so Antario Simcan't take it. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times Media

Davon Smith from Homewood Flossmore tucks the ball so Antario Simon can't take it. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 3, 2014 6:24AM



I had a very informative chat this week with IHSA associate executive director Kurt Gibson regarding the emphasis being made on hand-check calls and coaches box decorum in boys and girls basketball.

As you are probably aware if you’ve gone to any games, more players than ever are fouling out and more coaches are sitting down after receiving a first technical for leaving their 17-foot square.

It’s not a coincidence.

The IHSA prior to this season informed its officials that they wanted to put tighter restrictions on what players can do on defense.

“You’ve seen all the clutching and grabbing and physical play that has been allowed by the officials over the last 10-15 years,” Gibson said. “What we’re trying to encourage our officials to do is consistently enforce the rules as they are written. We’ve allowed too much of the contact that is going on to be considered incidental contact.

“There was a time when officials were trained or taught to think, ‘Well, if there is no advantage gained, just ignore it.’ We’re trying to give movement back to the player, so we really think there needs to be a more consistent enforcement of the rules as they’re written.”

The IHSA also asked its officials to crackdown on coaches leaving their boxes and making displays of unsportsmanlike conduct.

All sorts of stories have been circulating, including a couple about coaches being T’d up for getting a drink of water and leaving the box to retrieve a loose ball. I think I was three or four games in before I got through 32 minutes without at least one coach being sat down with a technical for stepping over the line.

Many say the IHSA is reacting to the behavior of the coaches and players in the Seton Academy-Harrisburg Class 2A boys title game last March, which culminated in Seton leaving behind its second-place trophy. They’re right … sort of.

“The types of behavior displayed particularly early in that contest are displayed far too often in high school basketball games, not only in Illinois but around the country,” Gibson said. “Perhaps that incident brought the situation to a head, but I would say that our office has been talking about the need to enforce the coaches box (rule) for as long as I’ve been here (12 years).

“I think officials are finally seeing that they need to take our (lead) that they start enforcing this like it’s supposed to be, a little more seriously.”

On the court, there were 61 fouls called in the Hillcrest vs. H-F game. Bloom has had at least two games in which five Blazing Trojans fouled out. Marist had five players foul out and four more finish with four fouls in a loss to Rich Central. I haven’t seen any boys games yet, but from some of the public forum threads I’ve seen, coaches are having to go deeper than usual into their benches.

It comes in the wake of a one-page letter filled with underlined, boldfaced and capitalized words regarding the enforcement of the hand check and coaches box rules that has been circulating among athletic directors and coaches. Many think it came from the IHSA, but I confirmed with a long-time official that it was written within their ranks as sort of a “how-to” guide.

So don’t blame the IHSA for being a bully.

Gibson, however, is adamant that officials need to clean the game up with more whistles, not just for hand checks, but also for traveling, three seconds and palming the ball.

Frustrated players, meanwhile, are shaking their heads and the coaches are howling.

It’s been a tough two weeks to watch. Let’s hope it gets a little easier to adjust.



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