‘I really think it’s going to be bad for basketball’: Big 12 Officials Coordinator Curtis Shaw gives officiating update ahead of 2021-2022 basketball season

Big 12 Officials Coordinator Curtis Shaw gives an update on new rulings going into the 2021-2022 season. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Big 12 Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials Curtis Shaw shared during the men’s Big 12 Media Day in October that some revisions are coming to the way college basketball is officiated. The biggest news is officiating changes to three disputed modern offensive moves: the euro-step, the step-back and the spin move.

In recent years, fans have been in disputes over the legality of these moves — whether or not they are legal or if they’re travels. All three moves feature a loophole in the rules, making it hard for officials to determine the correct call. Shaw said that these plays will no longer be prohibited.

“Now have an approved ruling written that basically says they’re legal,” Shaw said. “So, you’re going to see plays this year that you’re going to say, ‘That’s a travel,’ and technically, by rule, it is. But they’re going to allow them to happen.”

Allowing this gives offensive players a unique advantage in the game as they’re basically given an extra step free-of-charge, something Shaw isn’t too excited to see play out.

“I really think it’s going to be bad for basketball because I don’t think you can defend a player,” Shaw said.

Why would this get implemented, then? Unfortunately for Shaw, he doesn’t get a final say in these rules as this is a nationwide ruling seen for all NCAA programs.

“I think it’s going to increase scoring because it’s going to be hard to defend somebody who can make a move before he releases the ball to dribble, but that’s what the rules committee wanted, so that’s what we’ll do,” Shaw said. “I was very disappointed by how the national rules committee took it. We only do what we’re done. When they close the door and vote, we have no say, so we have to adapt.”

Shaw had his own ideas on how to solve the controversy, but the ruling wasn’t taken into consideration.

“We wanted to put in an interpretation where the foot on the ground when you end the dribble is the zero foot,” Shaw said. “Then you get one, two, which, by rule, you get two steps. That would’ve made all of these plays legal, it would’ve made it easier to officiate, it would’ve been great for the media and the fans to understand what we’re doing. Now, instead of taking a rule and writing it properly, we came up with an approval that says, ‘Eh, technically they’re not legal but let’s just let them do it.'”

The other big change in ruling is how the block/charge will get ruled. Previously, it was written that whichever player reaches the spot first has positioning, meaning a defensive player could draw a charge even after the offense player had already started making their move towards the basket. This ruling will change this year.

“An offensive player,” Shaw said, “once he’s gathered the ball and starts his movement, he can’t change. The fact that our rule allows a defender to step in front, and all he has to do is be set a split second before the offensive player’s toe to leave the ground is impossible. It’s also extremely difficult to referee … and we’re not good at it, but I don’t know if you can be good at it. We tried to get it where ‘When the plant foot hits, the defender can no longer get in front.’ The block/charge is the hardest play in the game.”

Other areas of focus for officials this year are flopping and screens. Flopping — where a player acts like a foul occurred when nothing actually happened — will be called.

“The shooters that just fall to the ground, there’s going to be more of an emphasis on penalizing them. Taking that part of the game completely out,” Shaw said.

Screens — where an offensive player uses their body as a shield for their teammate to rub their defender into — will be called tighter to prevent injury or give an advantage to the offense.

“We have to set legal screens. We have to stay in front of the body or else the defense has no chance,” Shaw said.

Shaw said he was also proud of the steps the Big 12 has taken in welcoming inclusion in the sport, reminding everyone of the hiring of official Amy Bonner this past season.

“[Bonner was] one of the first females that worked conference games, conference tournament, would’ve been selected for the NCAA tournament if they hadn’t of reduced their numbers,” Shaw said. “We’re excited that the Big 12 is being a part of the diversity going on in athletics.”

The Kansas State men’s basketball team tips off its season at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4, with an exhibition match at home against Pittsburgh State in Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be aired on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Check back with the Collegian after the game for a recap.