Sports | Sports Columns

ANDREWS: Referees should never decide a game

  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    Osetkowski overshadowed | The efforts of junior center Cory Osetkowski, who played two strong games for the Lions this weekend, were overshadowed by a questionable call in Friday's matchup against Harvard.

On Friday night, Columbia and Harvard played an instant classic in Levien. The Lions played the league leaders tight through the first half, but a Crimson run put the Light Blue at a 12-point disadvantage with just under seven minutes left to play.

Many in the building had given up hope, but junior forward Alex Rosenberg and sophomore guard Maodo Lo put the team on their collective backs. The Lions came roaring back and tied the game, and the sellout crowd stayed on its feet for the final five minutes of regulation, making enough noise to rival a Big East school.

A nifty drive and shot from Lo as time expired clanged off the front and back of the rim to send it into overtime.

Overtime, too, came down to the final shot—with the stands shaking, Rosenberg drove into the lane and banked a 12-foot jumper into the hoop to give the Lions the win with two seconds left to go. The crowd erupted. The Crimson was vanquished.

Or not.

In the commotion, one of the referees began gesticulating wildly. He called an offensive foul on Rosenberg, negating the basket and handing the ball to Harvard. Light Blue head coach Kyle Smith fell from an ecstatic jump of happiness to an incredulous pose, hands on his head in shock. The crowd went nuts, raining chants of “BULL-SHIT” down on the zebras.

The second overtime was just a formality. The Crimson seized the lead and held on for an 88-84 win, and I slotted a new game into the top position of my mental index called “Worst Columbia Losses, 2010-14.” (Unfortunately, it is a very long index.)

I don’t like to blame referees for losses. It takes away from the incredible efforts of the athletes in the game, and to say that a ref was biased throughout the game is almost always false. Referees, first and foremost, are people too.

There is one huge exception, though. The No. 1 rule of refereeing is never to decide a game with a single call—and that’s exactly what happened on Friday night.

Perhaps I have not made it clear what a wretched excuse for a call this was. The replay certainly makes it look like Harvard’s Laurent Rivard is backing up and moving as Rosenberg makes contact with him, which should be enough to make this a defensive blocking foul. Even more absurdly, the officials had called exactly one offensive foul in the game prior to this pivotal moment. The rules as they are written are not always followed exactly in every game, but they should be enforced consistently within the game itself.

Making that call at that point in the game was nothing more than an official deciding to be the center of attention, and deciding that Columbia should not win.

This call affected more than just one victory. Had Rosenberg’s shot counted, Columbia would be just one game behind Harvard today. Instead, the team sits three games back. It’s the difference between Yale holding sole possession of first place in the league or having to share it with the Crimson. The final half of the Ivy League schedule could have been wildly exciting, but instead, Harvard remains the overwhelming favorite.

What I’m going to remember about this game isn’t Alex Rosenberg having the game of his life, putting up an absurd 34 points and coming up with big shot after big shot. It won’t be Maodo Lo putting up his typical 20 points on silky-smooth shooting. Nor will it be Cory Osetkowski playing a solid game in the post after a disappointing pair of games last weekend. And—as much as I want it to—it won’t be the way that the Columbia crowd, often maligned for having basically no idea what to do at a basketball game in terms of cheering or being loud, spent over half an hour on its feet, making noise and giving the Lions a home-court advantage we don’t usually see.

I’m going to remember three guys wearing black-and-white stripes who concluded, like judges in figure skating, that they should decide the winner of this incredible game. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for a Columbia team that deserves better.

Peter Andrews is a Columbia College senior majoring in history. He is a member of Spectator’s editorial board, head manager emeritus of the Columbia University Marching Band, and a sports broadcaster for WKCR. For Pete’s Sake runs biweekly. 

sports@columbiaspectator.com @pfandrews

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Anonymous posted on

Well said. It was just a travesty. That official should never work another Columbia game. It looked to me as if he decided that Harvard should not lose, and that he should make sure that Amaker is his buddy.

+1
+4
-1
dqueezy posted on

great job Pete! terrible call. glad out boys in blue gave it their all. and you too.

+1
+1
-1
Long Time Tiger Fan posted on

I felt worse about this horrific call than I did last week when my Tigers were victimized by an absurd "held ball" call restoring possession to the Lions near the end of a game in which Princeton led by 2. Naturally, Lyles canned a long 3 for his only points and a Lion victory on the road. Games should be decided by the players.

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

I feel sorry for Coach Smith and the entire Columbia Lion Basketball Team. They deserved the victory and the ref's call was just horrible. But the two other refs deserve criticism as well for not overruling the bad call. They were in a better position to see the play and it was clear to everyone in the stands that the Harvard defender (a) was moving, (b) hand fouled Rosenberg (c) neither attempted to block the shot nor draw a foul and, finally just "flopped." Rosenberg did a great power move to the basket to win the game for Columbia, but unfortunately, for the Lions, three incompetent referees blew it. Oh well, in Ivy League sports, whatever Harvard wants, Harvard gets, whether or not Harvard violates NCAA recruiting rules, Harvard kids cheat on exams, Harvard lowers admission standards, etc. If Columbia really wants to win in basketball, everyone has to realize it takes physical and mental toughness and some anger. in addition to athletic skill.

+1
+5
-1
Anonymous posted on

I was there, and the foul call seemed a little over reacted from my angle in the stands, but is there anywhere (a link perhaps) the replay can be seen?

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/columbia/video/columbia-mbb-close-call-in-overtime

+1
+6
-1
Seriously? posted on

This article is so naive. Referees don't "decide games." They try their best to make the right decisions during every second of the game, including the last one. Do you realize that either way, the ref would have been "deciding the game?" He doesn't make the call - okay, now the referee "decided the game" and gave us the win. He does make the call - okay, now the referee "gave" Harvard the win. Refs don't "decide games." They simply try to enforce the rules. Reffing is extremely, extremely difficult. I'm a ref, and I've been playing since I was 7. Sometimes as a ref you have to make LITERALLY a split-second decision, and no. Referees are not gods. I've seen the replay of this one and it's still a really tough call. One that certainly does not warrant this kind of finger-pointing.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

I have to disagree with you. Yes, being a ref is very difficult. But, in the most critical moments of a match, you must allow the players to play. The call made in the Harvard game was very subtle. Most people watching, even on re-runs, do not see a foul. If this had been a play outside of the last few minutes, some refs would have called it and others would not have called it. It was questionable. But, to call a foul on this in the last seconds is interfering in the game and making the ref the center of attention.

+1
+6
-1
Seriously? posted on

No, a foul is a foul whether it's in the first few seconds or the last. The rules don't change. It's not like players can all of a sudden start hitting each other because the game's about to end and the refs should "allow the players to play." This matter is not about whether the refs should have even been deliberating, it's about whether the call was right. And if one thinks that it was not a foul, that's completely fair. But it's not a valid argument to say that the refs shouldn't have made the call even if there was a foul.

+1
-7
-1
Anonymous posted on

As the writer clearly states, the referees had only called ONE offensive foul prior to that moment, and that included many questionable plays that could have either been charges or blocks. Sure, refs aren't perfect, and yes, they have tough jobs. But that doesn't excuse them from criticism when they make bad calls. And the ref that called the charge against Rosenberg made a bad call—a call that was inconsistent with the way that he called the rest of the game, and a call that came on a play where it was pretty obvious Rivard's feet were moving backward. And in doing so, he took from Columbia its chance to win.

+1
0
-1
Hahvahd sucks posted on

There is NO WAY that call is made against Harvard. Hell, it's probably an and one for them. The Ivy leadership bows to those d-bags and gives them whatever they want while looking the other way when they bring in academically unqualified players and commit recruiting violations. That game was stolen from our boys, it still makes me sick thinking about it.

+1
+7
-1
NCAA Memo This Year -- Read It posted on

I don't even go to Columbia and I think that was a terrible call. The NCAA made it a point of emphasis this season that the shooter would get the benefit of a foul call, as opposed to a charging penalty, if the contact occurred after he had begun his shooting motion, with "shooting motion" defined as bringing the ball into shooting position from the floor or the waist. In the context of this NCAA mandate, this was a particularly bad call.

Harvard gets to play fifth-year seniors if they get caught cheating. Harvard gets to recruit a dozen low AI players for its team while other Ivies get two or three. And now Harvard gets charging calls when the NCAA specifically says this type of contact is a foul on the defender.

I'm willing to let Harvard play fifth-year seniors when no Ivy can. I'm willing to let Harvard flout the NCAA block-charge rule. All I ask is that Harvard be forced to follow the same academic limitations that the rest of us do. We are academic institutions, ferchrissakes, let's act like it.

+1
-3
-1
Columbia Player Arrested posted on

This development just in: Shortly after Saturday night's Dartmouth at Columbia game, Lion player Alex Rosenberg was arrested and taken into custody by New York police officers for his felony assault and battery upon Harvard shooting guard Laurent Rivard at the end of the first overtime period in the previous night's Harvard-Columbia game.

Said police commissioner William J. Bratton, "Although our hapless victim Mr. Rivard was backing up at the time, criminal Rosenberg continued his assault, specifically by raising a basketball over his head and throwing it skyward."

Bratton continued, "Our job as police officers is to clear New York of hardened criminals like Rosenberg so that the streets of our great city will be safe for law-abiding citizens like Mr. Rivard to back up any time he wants, especially after the perpetrator has already begun his shooting motion."

Bratton concluded with a smile, "Please tell our good friend Mr. Amaker that Mayor De Blasio and I hope he had an enjoyable visit to New York and, by the way, the boys down at the station have identified some excellent low AI players that he might want to recruit for next year's team."

+1
-2
-1
Harvard Fan posted on

I saw it on the Internet. You're right. It was a horrible offensive foul call. But same thing happened to Harvard vs Penn in 2012. Check it out: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=10Ltgm8rHS0&desktop_uri=%252Fwatch%253Fv%253D10Ltgm8rHS0

+1
-1
-1