Basketball is one of the most exciting sports to watch in person. The pace of the game, smaller venues than most other sports and fans sitting only a few feet from the playing surface combine to create an enjoyable experience. As an official, not much can compare to the atmosphere between two rival teams in a packed gym or arena.

But fans will be fans. And when team supporters cross the line between cheering for their team and violating the rules, it’s important for officials to know (1) what constitutes a violation, (2) how to properly adjudicate the situation based on the correct rule set, and (3) what are the ramifications of the penalties that were assessed.

The topic of crowd control can be a touchy one. Some officials don’t want to feel like they are “injecting themselves” into the game. From the opposite perspective, fans who have violated crowd control rules are in fact the ones “injecting themselves” into the game. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that crowd control protocols are in place not only to maintain an even playing field, but to protect the safety of players, coaches and officials involved in the contest.

General Advertisement – Yapalong

The game manager or the host administrator is responsible for controlling the crowd (throwing objects on the floor, use of artificial noisemakers, keeping fans off the floor, etc.) and team-sponsored support (bands, cheerleaders, music operators, public address announcers, etc.). Handing out and executing any penalties related to the conduct of those parties is the officials’ responsibility (NFHS 2-8-1; NCAAM/W 2-8.1). This is one area of the respective rule sets where there are very few variations.

A good game manager can be the officiating crew’s greatest ally. With the help of his or her staff, the game manager should take measures to avoid any potential problems happening in the first place. It’s a tough job, and when prevention doesn’t work, the game manager can be a key piece to the information-gathering puzzle.

What happened? Which team’s fans did it? Was it a group of fans or was it someone acting alone? Will the offender(s) be removed from the gym? Does the offending team receive a technical foul? If so, what type of technical foul will be assessed?
Just as film study and self-assessments can help an official improve play calling, real-world examples of these outside-the-box situations can help officials rule confidently.

Kiss It Goodbye
Hershey, Pa., brands itself “The Sweetest Place on Earth.” It’s home to the famous chocolate empire of the same name, an expansive amusement park and a world-renowned medical center. The streetlights that line the center of town are shaped like Hershey’s Kisses, and if the wind is blowing just right, the sweet smell of chocolate is everywhere.

The city’s status as a destination for families and its central location within the state make it the perfect place for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to host state championships for many sports, including basketball.

General Advertisement – Referee Officiating News

As high school teams from throughout the state advance to the championship game, fans traditionally launch Hershey’s Kisses onto the floor in celebration. When it happens before the officials’ jurisdiction has ended, interfering with the orderly progress of the game, it is unsporting conduct. A technical foul must be assessed. And yes, there have been cases when a premature celebration has cost a team its chance at a state championship.

Duke’s Cameron Crazies and Florida’s Rowdy Reptiles are college basketball’s student section home-court advantage standard-bearers.

Nearly all athletic departments big and small enter sponsorship deals with businesses aiming to promote their product to those who attend contests of all sports. A popular sponsorship opportunity is to put a business logo and/or website on a giveaway to all fans as they enter the venue.

Thundersticks were invented in South Korea and became popular in the United States during the 2002 World Series between the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants. They are a marketing department’s dream: Promoting the brand of the team and the sponsor, while also helping fans create a noisy atmosphere. They are also an official’s nightmare: An artificial noisemaker that creates an undue advantage for the home team.

This issue popped up in the 2022 Atlantic East women’s basketball tournament at Marymount University. For the host school’s semifinal game, the athletic department quite literally handed all fans these artificial noisemakers as they walked through the door. Since they were not inflated when given away, officials were not aware of the issue until the start of the game. After coordinating with game management to have the public address announcer request fans to stop, the crew was able to avoid assessing an administrative technical foul to the home team.

In this case, common sense prevailed. And the officials adjudicated the situation as instructed in the spectator conflict resolution section of the CCA Women’s Basketball Officiating Manual, rectifying the problem before it rose to the level of a technical foul.

Artificial Intelligence
Leave it to Ivy Leaguers to find the gray area in a rule and exploit it.
Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium opened its doors in 1969. It is still one of the top multi-sport athletic facilities in the country. The building has a ground level and three additional levels that are below street level.

However, it has one critical design flaw: The basketball arena is on the ground level. And when 7,000-plus fans gather to watch a game, perceptible vibration is inevitable. In other words, when the fans jump and cheer, the floor bounces. And when the floor bounces, the basket stanchion (which is mounted to the floor) does too. At key moments in a game (typically while the opponents are shooting free throws), the Princeton student section has been known to jump enough to shake the basket at which the opponent is shooting.

A creative way to create a home-court advantage for sure, but does it violate the rules related to unsporting conduct? There are no artificial noisemakers. The fans are not shouting obscenities or using unsavory language. The argument could be made the fans’ actions are interfering with the proper conduct of the game. Regardless, officials faced with a scenario like this should consider all the facts and use discretion when deciding to hand out any penalties.

Contrary to what fans scream from the bleachers and on social media, officials are not in the business of wanting the spotlight by drawing attention to fans. However, if the crew navigates the rules properly and manages the situation seamlessly, the spotlight will reveal that all officials are in complete control of the game.

NASO Interrupter – We’ve Got You Covered (640px x 165px)

What's Your Call? Leave a Comment:


Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

This article is the copyright of ©Referee Enterprises, Inc., and may not be republished in whole or in part online, in print or in any capacity without expressed written permission from Referee. The article is made available for educational use by individuals.

Previous articleCreating the Holistic Official
Next articleMLS referee lockout officially ends
Referee, the world’s original sports officiating magazine, educates, challenges and inspires officials at all levels.