“Referees should be like teams,” Williams said. “You get invited to the NCAA tournament, it’s an honor. You don’t go and play in the NIT, too. You focus on doing the very best you can in the NCAAs. Of course, if a referee doesn’t advance from the first week to the second, then, okay, go and work the NIT or those other tournaments.”
Again, money is a factor. The NCAA pays officials less for the NCAA tournament than they make a lot of the time in the regular season. The bigger conferences pay officials between $2,500 and $3,000 per game, out of which they must pay their expenses. Thus, Adams’s net number of about $2,000 per game. During the NCAA tournament, officials are paid $1,200 the first weekend, $1,400 the second weekend and $2,000 if they make the Final Four, with the NCAA paying their expenses.
According to the NCAA, about 40 percent of the $846 million it generated in revenue in 2010-11 went to championships, programs and services. That’s about $338 million. Wouldn’t it be possible to extract maybe $500,000 from $338 million to pay officials well enough to prohibit them from working anyplace else as long as they are still in the NCAA tournament? If officials were paid $2,500 the first weekend, $5,000 the second weekend and $10,000 the third weekend, the NCAA probably wouldn’t go broke. And it would give Adams a better chance of setting some kind of maximum number for regular season games officials could work.
“Certainly it would help if we made the financial incentive more attractive,” Adams said. “And I believe in competition. These guys are competing to advance just like the teams are. The more of that the better as far as I’m concerned.
Those new standards might explain why some older, highly respected officials — among them Jim Burr and Tim Higgins, who have worked 27 Final Fours between them — aren’t in the tournament this year. It also might explain why some officials who have worked a lot of games this season didn’t advance out of the first weekend, even though their work is highly respected by most. One of them is Brian Dorsey, a familiar face to ACC fans and this season’s leader in total games worked to date — 100. Dorsey’s season probably isn’t over: He worked the Old Dominion-Mercer CIT game Wednesday night in Norfolk.
“Players hit the wall sometimes late in the season, so do officials,” said Williams, who admitted he was surprised to hear how little the NCAA pays officials in postseason. “The question is do they hit the wall while they’re still working? That’s what you don’t want.”
And what you really don’t want is people talking about the officials and not the players when a game is over. Paying the officials more and demanding that they work less wouldn’t solve everything. But it could be a major step in the right direction.
For more columns by John Feinstein, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.
For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.