Decision to go with two-man officiating crews in ECC semis is baffling

Memo to Dev Ostrowski (East Lyme), Mikey Buscetto (Waterford), Trevor Hutchins (Ledyard) and other notable high school basketball players participating in this week's Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament:

In the interest of safety, you may want to punctuate your standard uniform with shoulder pads, mouth guards, neck rolls, elbow pads, hip pads, tailbone pads, flak jackets, helmets and compression shorts.

Because the adults running your games have forsaken the traditional three-man officiating crew for the league semifinals. They've reasoned that two officials are better than three, thus creating what may evolve into the league's first ECC football tournament.

League officials (athletic directors) believe that despite three-man crews in previous semifinal rounds and at some marquee regular-season games this year, the two-man format is more "comfortable" for the officials. League officials believe unfamiliarity with three-man formats causes officials' mechanics go astray. And they question whether there are enough good officials to staff four semifinal games (there are two Division II semis as well) and the championships (where the three-man format will remain).

It has also been suggested that the extra officials saddle the league with bigger expenses. All varsity officials make $95.90 per game.

This is all akin to someone urinating on your shoes and then telling you it's rain.

Because this has nothing to do with mechanics, merits or money. It's about gamesmanship. It is about gaining a cheap competitive advantage. And it has no place around the games our kids play.

Why is it gamesmanship? Start here: Every official, local and otherwise, will tell you three-man crews provide all referees better angles on calls and smaller areas to watch. Hence, two officials will see less, thus allowing the potential for more physical play.

And now we've arrived at the real issue.

If you can't beat Dev, Mikey or Trevor ... beat them up. The refs can't see everything. They can't call everything. So a jab here ... elbow there ... and the cumulative effect for four quarters may wear down/frustrate/injure, thus leveling the playing field.

And somehow, we're allowing this to happen.

"An absolutely horrific decision, devoid of any logic whatsoever," said Josh Tiven, an alum of the Eastern Board who has become a first-rate referee in the National Basketball Association. "As someone who has worked those games, I can honestly say that many times, the semifinals have been more intense/competitive than the finals."

I'm going to assume that Tiven knows a little more about officiating than the rest of us.

Now I'm not saying the Eastern Board is stocked with officials who can handle a league semifinal, especially this season, when East Lyme, NFA, New London, Ledyard and Waterford have all played very competitive, physical games against each other. I see officials who can't get up and down the floor as well as they should and are often out of position to make the proper call.

But I'm pretty sure I can find nine guys — six in the Division I semis and three in the Division I finals — who are capable. Here is a potential list: Tony Nocito, Dave Cruz, Tony Gigliotti, Tim Ververis, Dan Cayliss, Andy Kane, Greg Keith, Sergio Lewis, Rob Bono, Roger Warner, Mike Riley and others unintentionally omitted.

Perhaps Division II could be a good training ground for young officials who could get some experience in a tournament setting. Sorry, but it's Division II for a reason.

Alas, the bigger issue here is gamesmanship. The people in their area of expertise (the refs in this case) say they'd prefer three officials and not two. And still, the games go on with two because there was bellyaching after last year's tournament.

It doesn't pass the laugh test.

Best of luck to everyone in Saturday's semifinals. Just remember: If you are playing, coaching or in the stands and feel inclined to question a call, don't necessarily blame the refs. The ECC had a chance to ensure a fairer baseline for everyone involved.

And chose otherwise.

All in the name of a competitive advantage.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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