NCAA needs to revisit flagrant foul rule

Purdue and Villanova played an entertaining game last night in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. They did their part, at least for the first 39 minutes. And that's when the refs took over.

With the ball, and up four, Purdue inbounded to DJ Byrd. It was a bad inbounds plays because it allowed Nova to trap Byrd against the sideline. Here's the video:

He was called for an offensive foul, which, in my opinion, is not the right call. The replay shows that there was minimal, if any contact, between Byrd's tricep and the defender's chin. But the defender flopped and got the call. This happens. It was a bang-bang play and it's hard to fault the officials. So while I think they made the wrong call, it's tough to blame anyone for it. It would have been Nova's ball, down four. It was also DJ Byrd's fifth foul, and he was the primary offensive catalyst for the Boilermakers. For the game he scored 16 points and had five assists.

But the officials went to the monitor. And after an inordinate amount of time reviewing the play, they came back and called it a Flagrant 1. Purdue was awarded free throws and the ball.


To the rule book, 4-29-2-c-6:

A flagrant 1 personal foul shall be a personal foul that is deemed excessive in nature and/or unnecessary, but not based solely on the severity of the act. Examples include, but are not limited to: . . . Illegal contact with an elbow that occurs above the shoulders of an opponent when the elbows are not swung excessively per 4.36.7a.

The rule was changed prior to last season to remove the "intent" from an intentional foul. And it's been used to clean up overly physical play. But how was Byrd's move "excessive in nature and/or unnecessary"? Anyone who has played at any level has been taught to chin the ball. When someone is trying to strip the ball from you, you raise the ball to your chin and extend both elbows. This makes it difficult to strip. There are several commonly used drills in which players rebound the ball and immediately chin it. I was taught this. My dad was taught this. My grandfather was taught this. It is, and always has been a part of the game.

So Byrd chinned the ball and rotated over the defender looking for an outlet. And now it's a flagrant?

The announcers went on to explain that contact above the shoulder is always going to be a flagrant. So, back to the rule book:

Officials are reminded that there can be incidental contact with the elbow above or below the shoulders; swinging of the elbow is required for the foul to be classified as a flagrant 1 or 2 foul. Some incidental contact is being penalized improperly.

As usual, the announcers were wrong.

Villanova used the flagrant to force overtime, and finished the game with a 20-6 run.