Thursday, March 10, 2011

(More than) One Missed Call

As yesterday's St. John's - Rutgers game was getting underway at the Big East Tournament in New York, I saw a tweet from a current Syracuse student: "Wait, (Tim) Higgins and (Jim) Burr are reffing the same game? Is the apocalypse coming?"


He was joking about what many Syracuse (and other college basketball) fans have complained about for years. To put it nicely, these two veteran officials have lost a step. To put it more honestly, these two guys would be better suited pulling bingo numbers at a retirement home. Where they are also residents.

Two things: 1) Tim Higgins and Jim Burr have been officiating a ridiculously long time. They've got two dozen Final Fours between them. You don't last that long if you are completely incompetent. 2) Everyone makes mistakes. I make them all the time. Often on live television.

What bothers me is that Higgins and Burr seemed to be mailing it in for the last several years at the end of this important post-season game. They -- and the third ref Carl Walton -- looked like they'd decided the game was over, and weren't going to do anything to get in the way of that. There were a few "judgment" calls that were iffy down the stretch. That's one thing. I like when officials "let the kids play" and don't decide the game by making a ticky-tack foul calls. But you need to enforce the rules when a player travels, steps out of bounds and throws the ball out of bounds when there's still time on the clock. The guy who picks refs for the NCAA Tournament told, "Not officiating to the end of a game is unacceptable."

"Jim Burr is the best referee who ever lived," said Tim Higgins, who's officiated Big East Conference games with Burr for 30 years. "I also believe he did it his way, which is not easy." -Watertown (NY) Daily Times 8/30/09
I'm sure Higgins meant what he said. The Higgins and Burr families are very close. But seeing these guys on the floor doesn't make college hoops fans comfortable anymore. If these guys are still passionate about what they do, they need to rededicate themselves to the job. If they're not, they need to step aside. These college players are working their butts off on the court -- they deserve refs who are willing to do the same.

UPDATE: Tim Higgins, Jim Burr & Carl Walton have withdrawn from the Big East Tournament. Will they be back on the court for the NCAA Tourney? We'll see.

Today's Title: The theme song from a really creepy looking movie


  1. That was a crazy ending to the Rutgers-St. John's gameyesterday! The officials definitely messed up, but one or even two mistakes shouldn’t ban them from working NCAA tournament games. I thought Rutgers coach Mike Rice handled the situation with a lot of class. Most coaches at any level of basketball would have gone ballistic if similar circumstances occurred. At least the officials’ errors didn’t occur during the national championship game though. That certainly would have caused a massive uproar from players, coaches, and fans. I definitely applaud the decision of the three officials to withdraw from the Big East Tournament.

  2. You're right sportsfan1981 -- Rice took the high road. Imagine Boeheim or Calhoun in that situation!?! And the stakes were high in the Big East Tourney... but they could've been higher. Sad though, that after a great and well-played game by both teams, all the talk afterwards was about the officials.