Friday, January 4, 2013

Misleading: Replay Rules, Clock Error Key in COL-AZ Play

With time running out in the second half of Thursday's NCAA Men's Basketball Colorado-Arizona contest, Buffalo guard Sabatino Chen attempted to beat the buzzer, draining a three-point field goal to give Colorado an apparent 83-80 victory—until instant replay came into the picture.

After what Pac-12 coordinator Ed Rush described as a "thorough review courtside [with] multiple angles of the play," officials Verne Harris, James Breeding and Randy McCall waived off the basket.

Colorado coach Tad Boyle, perceptually spurned by the call, was vocal and offered a strong opinion:
Get rid of instant replay ... If human error is part of the game, let the officials call the game. Players, coaches and officials will make mistakes. It's part of the game.
Red light: Is the ball on fingertips or in air?
Meanwhile, television viewers watching in realtime on ESPNU were treated to a press box view appearing to show Chen releasing the ball with 0.2 seconds displayed on the broadcast graphic scoreboard's game clock.

Unfortunately, the broadcast graphic and arena scoreboard were not precisely in sync—specifically, while the graphic registered 0.2 seconds remaining in the period, the scoreboard atop the backboard read "0.0." Indeed, the graphic had suffered from an approximately two-tenths-of-a-second time delay the entire game (e.g., when the graphic read 3.3 seconds, the actual in-arena scoreboard read 3.1 seconds).

Because the on-screen game clock display and official game clock were not in complete synchronization, the graphic could not be used to determine when the ball was released and the officials were left to consider the red LED lights behind the backboard (NCAA Rule 2-13-1).

Views from other angles appeared to show the difference between finger-touch and release at 0.0 to be within one or two frames, making such a clock error or malfunction absolutely vital.

Furthermore, in football, hockey and baseball, inconclusive video in regards to an original ruling reverts to the call on the field as being correct. In basketball, this is not necessarily the case.

As distinct from football, baseball and hockey replay rules, a standard of incontrovertibility or conclusiveness does not appear in the NCAA Basketball rules book in regards to use of replay to judge an on-court ruling—because NCAA Basketball replay is not used to review an official's on-floor call, but instead is used to determine what occurred on the floor, the standard is of "definitive information."

For instance, in NCAA Football, Rule 12-1-2 requires "indisputable video evidence" in order to reverse an on-field decision, such as whether a ball was snapped before time expired. In NCAA Basketball, by contrast, officials make the call using replay as opposed to reviewing an on-court ruling, meaning a more lenient burden of proof in order to effect either call (e.g., good or time expired).

Had the Colorado-Arizona call occurred in football, a definitive on-court ruling would have been rendered at the time of the real-time play and replay would have been used to determine the accuracy of this ruling. Under football rules, had calling (center) official Harris instantaneously ruled the field goal good, the burden of proof (indisputable video evidence) would have been on disallowing the score. Had Harris instantaneously ruled the field goal late (time expired), evidence must have been indisputable in suggesting the shot was released in time.

Because basketball's "definitive information" standard is used in relation to the events on the floor as opposed to the call on the floor, the standard with which to confirm or overturn a call changes.

For an imperfect metaphor, consider a criminal case's "reasonable doubt" (as in football/hockey/baseball) versus a civil trial's "preponderance of evidence" (as in basketball).

Wrap: Colorado Buffalo vs. Arizona Wildcats, 1/3/13
Video: Chen's bucket does not count after replay review confirmation the ball was released late (ESPN)


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