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March 25, 2004

I have known Terry Holland for over twenty years. We have spent several hours through the years discussing everything from basketball rules to politics. After every session I walk away and say to myself….”Man, that makes so much sense…but naturally…because it makes so much sense, it will never happen.”

Example. Holland feels 90% of the college football bowl games ought to be played in August. See…that just makes too much sense. Why play games in 45-degree weather, with teams that have lost four out of five, and enter the game 6-5? Especially in a month when fans are thinking Christmas instead of a trip to the Apricot Walnut Bowl in Davenport, Iowa. Holland thinks that if most of the bowl games were played in August, teams that enter the season with a lot of hype and expectation will draw more fans. Plus, fans can schedule vacations around the game and the bowl trip. Until a play off system is put in place, the BCS games – the ones that really matter – can still be played after Christmas. Think about the kick off classic match-ups that begin the season. The television ratings are good, ticket sales are solid, and fans are excited.

Well, this week, the former UVA coach had another brainstorm on a couple of college basketball issues, and yes, both of them made way too much sense. With the length of the college game becoming a problem – you know, media time outs, officials studying replays, and all those late game free throws (oh those free throws!) – the college game is becoming brutal to watch down the stretch. Holland’s idea is to eliminate as many of the free throw attempts as possible and force a team to play defense instead of counting on another team to miss. Holland thinks that instead of the “one and bonus” free throw(s) after the 7th team foul, the offensive team should just get the ball out of bounds. Then, after the tenth team foul, the offensive team gets one free throw and the ball out of bounds. Defense is a priority, and it stops all those high fives at the free throw line, a pet peeve of mine. How many times have you seen a kid brick a free throw, and then all his teammates come shake his hand while he’s still at the line? Want to know what I tell my teammates? “Don’t. Just stay there. I just bricked a charity toss that could possibly cost us the game. I don’t want anyone close to me. Don’t move!”

Holland basketball rule change #2-the block/charge. This has become one of the most frustrating and hard to call rules in the game. Even though replays show that officials get it right most of the time, it’s so close that the block/charge should just be taken away from the judgment of the official. Holland thinks that contact initiated by the offensive player, in most cases, is a pretty good move and should be awarded. Former UVA All American Jeff Lamp was a master at backing off his man and gaining position. It also takes away the flop in the lane. I mean, come on, do you actually think Todd Billet can knock down Duke’s Sheldon Williams? We have running backs that couldn’t bowl over Williams if they started their sprint in the locker room. The NBA had a pretty good idea with that half circle in the lane to stop the flop underneath the basket. I think some of the college refs have bought into that call now and have built the imaginary circle in their heads.

A couple of other things. I spoke with ACC basketball official Duke Edsall. One of his early games that he worked in the NCAA tournament was Texas Tech-Charlotte. He and Red Raiders’ coach Bobby Knight only had one real disagreement on a travel call that wasn’t whistled. Knight asked Edsall if he would do him a favor – get the game tape, look at the play, and get back to him on it. Duke, who might be one of the better game communicators in the business, told the legendary Knight, “Coach, I will, and I will definitely call you.” The outcome? Duke was right, he let Knight know, and everyone was happy.

Now that’s why the college game is what it is. However, I agree with Terry Holland. There are a few things we need to look at.

NCAA bracket busters? Illinois gets Duke, St. Joe’s beats Wake, but Georgia Tech slips in.

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