By now many people have seen the footage of Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery being ejected during Sunday night’s road loss to Wisconsin.
If not, the short version is that McCaffery took issue with two consecutive plays involving back-up center Gabe Olaseni. The first took place on the offensive end when Olaseni’s arm was clearly hit on a put-back attempt, but no foul was called. Moments later a similar, if not less severe call went against the Iowa big man while guarding in the post.
McCaffery immediately took issue with the sequence of events and after some yelling and visible frustration was assessed a technical. The rant continued until McCaffery turned and “made contact” with an official who then immediately ejected him.
Two days later the Big Ten handed down a $10,000 fine and one game suspension to the Iowa head coach.
While McCaffery and the university have accepted the suspension and apologized for the events on Sunday evening, I’m here to say that such a punishment is downright ridiculous.
Did McCaffery deserve the first technical he received? Yes. In fact, he admitted that his intention was to get T’d up in an attempt to inject some life and energy into his team. This is not an unusual tactic for a coach on any high level of basketball to utilize, and McCaffery himself has done so effectively on multiple occasions.
The second technical and subsequent suspension are where I begin to have a real problem.
The major premise for McCaffery’s ejection and suspension was his quote-unquote “contact with an official”. This is not to say that a protective bubble exists around each referee that if breached is cause for an automatic ejection. Rather, the phrase is in place in order to punish any coach or player that makes any intentionally malicious physical contact with an official.
In watching the video it is obvious that the referee in question walked in front of McCaffery as he was turning, and actually made initial contact with the coach himself by placing a forearm against his chest.
McCaffery wasn’t seeking out an official to physically confront. To yell at maybe, but not to intentionally bump, push, impede, or express any other hostile action you can come up with in a physical manner.
I could probably live with the ejection and even the fine if the sole reasoning was because of McCaffery’s verbal outburst and it’s potential “detriment” to the image of the Big Ten. However, a suspension of even a single game is out-of-bounds.
Rulings like this one are another example just of how asinine and out of touch the decision makers of the NCAA and conferences like the Big Ten really are. Instead of providing contextual evidence they hide behind the same recycled line of “image protection” that has become all to prevalent in the sports world.
This isn’t just an issue to me due to its effect on the Iowa program, but because it is a widespread infection of sorts.
Is Fran McCaffery a fiery and emotional coach? Absolutely. But to a tee, each of his players will tell you that his actions and competitiveness are a reflection of his support and protective nature for the young men he coaches.
The NCAA and the conferences that support it are looking for coaches to be puppets on the floor and ambassadors off of it. They want these coaches to “embody the values and principles of amateur athletics”.
In the grand scheme of things it is only basketball, but the best coaches are the ones who express their integrity and character both on and off the court. Fran McCaffery was sticking up for a player whom he believed had been wronged by the officials, but if one looked closer I’d be more than willing to bet that the same attitude is shown outside of basketball.
If there is definitive cause and evidence for any coach to be suspended I will never argue against it. However, twisting rules and policy in order to uphold some imaginary protection of the sport is fraudulent.
Fran McCaffery and Iowa fans everywhere should see this suspension as further proof of an incompetent system that has neither the best interests of players, coaches, nor the game itself in mind.