Just Incase You Missed It: Officiating

There is a massive flurry of discussion on the boards and the blog against last night’s game against Duke.  So ‘Pride, why are you writing yet another article about the game?  Simple: because I found something that had been posted prior to last night’s game that was interesting.  Ironically, it was sitting right under my nose on the message boards.

Just as a clarification, THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE DUKE GAME, but that game definitely inspired the article.  If you want to talk Duke, go to our other articles about the same topic (“The Silver Lining“, “Leave the ACC! LEAVE IT NOW!“).


User “projecttwentynine” posted in our “ACC officiating” thread about the general state of fouls called for and against various opponents and the differential between those two values for different teams in the ACC.  Most interesting to me was who topped the list of ‘foul differentials’ for the last  5 seasons.

  • UNC had the largest foul differential between fouls FOR and fouls AGAINST of any team in the ACC for the past 5 years except 1.
  • The one season UNC didn’t lead the ACC in foul differentials, they were second with NC State leading the Pack, however the year NC State was #1 on the list represents the “smallest” maximum differential of any year (in other words, no one had a massive differential in fouls compared to other years).
  • Over the last 5 years, UNC has averaged almost 5 less foul a game than their opponent (that is potentially a total of an extra 10-15 points per game than their opponent).

If you need some graphical bearing on how foul discrepancy looks over the last five years, take a look.

From this, it’s pretty easy to see that it’s not just that fouls are a little unfair, there are DRAMATICALLY unfair, at least between NC State and their key rivals.  Just to put things into better perspective, here is the entire ACC’s foul descrepencies with UNC’s highlighted.

As they use to say on a popular children’s show, one of these things is not like the other; one of these things is not the same.  There really is not explanation.

Just to give everyone another perspective, here is the 5-year average for every ACC team.  Note the dramatic difference between the foul differential for UNC compared to everyone else.

  It’s also worth stating that the top three teams (lower is better) are commonly our most hated teams to play: UNC, Duke, and Maryland.


I considered if it was because UNC was somehow just “consistently more talented” and that somehow caused a higher foul differential.  The first place I automatically went to was what a Carolina alumnus in my office once said; Carolina might just be a team that plays very aggressively and when you play aggressively and are comfortable with it, you’re going to force the other team to play uncomfortably aggressive, drawing more fouls.  If that is the case, I would expect that Carolina might just foul an “average” amount and their opponents might be doing all the dirty work.  Let’s see if that’s true.

Well, it would appear that this isn’t true at all.  UNC has the fewest fouls called against them over the last five years of any team.  So apparently the solid explanation that UNC is simply a “physical team” doesn’t really fly, especially when you consider the various, less aggressive offensive styles out there in the ACC and UNC still manages to beat everyone else in the fouls called against them.

EDIT: Some may suggest that this is simply an affect of being a team with top-notch talent playing with high athletic IQs.  If you want to accept this, I would question why year-in and year-out, UNC is at the top of the dogpile for foul discrepancy yet DUKE is actually the team that has been more consistently appearing and winning the ACC tournament.  I would also point to the ’07-’08 NC State season and note that even though NC State lead the ACC in foul discrepancy, they by no means had the best talent in the conference. 


The conclusions were probably obvious before reading the article, but let me first say what we know for a fact is true.

  • Carolina doesn’t get fouled.  Whether their name is “Carolina” or “NC State” or “Murray State” or “Rowan-Cabarrus Community College” doesn’t matter.  The fact that any “trend” can be established for any institution above others shows that something is wrong with officiating in general.
  • Most other schools have fairly randomized foul discrepancies when you look at the 5-year average.  This means that some teams do a little better some years and a little better others.  Carolina is the only team that has consistently done better than everyone else.  If everyone’s performance around them is completely randomized, in a world of perfect or at least unbiased officiating, how can Carolina maintain any kind of trend?
  • Officials are people to.  They live, eat, breath, and have flaws just like the rest of us.  If they are flawed people, they can make mistakes and those can manifest themselves in the form of biases and bad calls. Simply because an official is paid to not make mistakes doesn’t mean you can assume it never happens.
  • To be fair, not all these stats are for strictly ACC play, but even many of the OOC games involve the ACC officials so I’m not sure that’s such a factor.

So getting back to this article, what is my conclusion?  The only logical conclusion I get arrive at is that look at the last five years, biases have been introduced into officiating.  Regardless of who is benefiting from the bias, if one exists it brings into question the full body of work.  It especially brings into question the “what ifs” over the last 5 years.  What “if” UNC didn’t have an additional 10-15 free throws per game?  How many games has UNC won within this margin?  How many tournament games would this have changed in the ACC?  How different would the ACC standings look?

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s fair to say you can’t point at any one game and say, “We would have won if it hadn’t of been for the officiating.”  I get it, I really do.  At the same time, it’s just flat-out ignorant to turn your head the other way, spread your buttcheeks, and gladly proclaim that no bias exists and that it isn’t a factor that could, and likely has, affected the outcome of multiple games over a several year period.

Can you answer the hypothetical questions I posed?  No?  Sure would be nice if we didn’t have to ask them in the first place.

Just as a sidenote, one poster mentioned in the forums that they had sent an e-mail to a certain ‘senior athletics department official’ thanking them for their efforts and ending with this…

PS. If Coach Gottfried were to ever get fined by the ACC for speaking his mind about the current state of officiating in our conference, I’ll donate $50 to paying for the fine he’ll receive.”

The response he received? “That day may not be far ahead, my friend.”  Obviously a comment made in jest, but honest question for the great State Fans Nation: who would blame Coach Gottfried for accomplishing so much with so little and being dropped into a situation with so many unanswered questions outside of his team’s control?

About NCStatePride

***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NCStatePride has been writing for StateFansNation.com since 2010 and is a 2009 graduate of the College of Engineering.

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57 Responses to Just Incase You Missed It: Officiating

  1. Wufpacker 02/17/2012 at 7:14 PM #

    BTW, dude. “Tweet-fest set the stage” is not disproven by “Duke went on a 7-0 run despite being whistled for more fouls during the tweet-fest”.

  2. AirWolf 02/17/2012 at 7:20 PM #

    The most damning evidence against the bias in officiating appears when the Blues get into the NCAA tourney and run out of ACC officiating versus good teams. Puke and Kerliner usually have easy 1st and 2nd round draws in the NCAAs. They can breeze past the lower seeds with no problem. However, once they get into a scrap with mid-level and upper seeds, the games get tighter and without “proper officiating”, they usually come home early. Duke gets along a little better than uncch because the coaching is infinitely better, but the results are usually the same with either team.
    I even saw Tyler Hansbrough called for traveling in a tournament game. Never happened in the ACC.
    If you don’t think ACC refs are biased toward the Blues, then you qualify as a flat earther.

  3. ganymebe 02/17/2012 at 7:38 PM #

    I am a 100% State fan and watching the game nearly caused me to throw the remote through the TV, but face it, our guys foul. They foul a lot.

    How many times have you seen Howell reach a LONG ways to grasp at a ball on the other side of an opponent? Anyone could call those. How many times does Scott Wood suddenly go dim and swat at someone, lucky not to get a technical? How many times do you see us clearly foul someone 40 feet from the basket? or shooting a three pointer?

    I think it is like our football team. Amato seemed to have the team so they mindlessly got penalties and cost games. Now we play with a lot more control and stupid penalties aren’t accepted. That’s coaching. It isn’t that hard to imagine that Roy could have the same kind of focus on discipline as O’Brien. Teaching. Correcting mistakes. Penalizing repeated stupidity.

    How can Duke be better and get more fouls? Other aspects of their game could be better. Better shooters. More steals from aggressive D? Better rebounding? Who knows? That kind of logic would say that Alabama or LSU must get fewer penalties than NCSU’s football team, because they win a lot more. Doesn’t make much sense.

    I hate Carolina. Always have. Always will. Pulled for the Russians to beat them back when the US hated the Russians. Just the same, we should get past the statistical masturbation and hope that Gottfried can instill some discipline and control. I think he can. It will sure be nice when we have more than seven quality players for every game.

  4. runwiththepack 02/17/2012 at 7:41 PM #

    It’s a pity that there isn’t a sort of “officiating critic” in the fashion of the old “siskel and ebert”. Wouldn’t that be cool?!?

    That would put the “proper” light on ACC officiating.

    Imagine – some Eastern European basketball experts/critics (who, presumably, don’t have a “dog in the fight”) looking at game films and concluding “the teams with the most talent and the winning records also receive a huge help from the referees, which they surely don’t need, given the advantages that they already hold. Nyet”.

  5. gotohe11carolina 02/17/2012 at 7:42 PM #

    couldn’t let that be the last post…

    btw stats don’t lie. numbers aren’t biased or opinionated they are numbers or facts for those people with right brain degrees. the main point of the article is that while no one else has a statistical advantage in the foul differential category except for one team. I’m not a statistician but I’m pretty sure that an anomaly like this is statistically significant. just sayin’

  6. pbp4th 02/17/2012 at 7:44 PM #

    careful, ganymebe. you might have a point.

  7. runwiththepack 02/17/2012 at 7:45 PM #


    if only the mindless penalties were ALSO (i repeat A-L-S-O) called on the others, which seem to usually get a pass.

    It seems to me that the point others are trying to make here is that the OTHERS also commit these fouls, but aren’t called for them nearly as often. Why? Hmm… what a frickin mystery.

  8. runwiththepack 02/17/2012 at 7:51 PM #

    We heard in recent years that the AGRESSIVE team is given some leniency by the whistle-blowers.

    Remember that, SFN? But last night, NCSU came out more aggressive and – SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!!!!!! – The refs decided to “adjust the officiating”, (according to the Adam and Joe show on 99.9). Furthermore, according to A&J, “NCSU should have noticed that the officials ‘adjusted’ the officiating”.

    It’s a new BULLSHIT excuse every year as to why officiating isn’t even (always to the advantage of one of the blues, of course.)

    Let’s see those zebra sphincter muscles adjust the officiating sometime for the benefit of a non-blue team. It probably has happened once in the past decade just so they could say it is “balanced”.

    Oddly enough, the officiating is even more tilted towards the light blue than it is towards the dark blue.

  9. runwiththepack 02/17/2012 at 7:57 PM #

    Yeah, ganymebe, you might have a point.

    Opponents of the blues must play nearly perfect foul-free ball. Half of the silly fouls on the blues are ignored, but nearly all of them are called against their opponents.

    Right, pbp4th?


    In other words, effectively give NCSU’s blue opponents a 5 to 10 point “cushion”, in case it’s needed, like last night.

    All those Micky-dee AA’s aren’t enough of an advantage. Gotta get the zebra in the huddle so that the zebra can know when a blue team is trying to draw a foul.

  10. Dr. BadgerPack 02/17/2012 at 7:58 PM #

    One of the gripes I have seen is the “you should worry about what you have control over” argument. This is all well and good. EXCEPT, the stupid fouls, mental mistakes, etc. aren’t something commenters and authors here have control over either. We do however have a more than capable coaching staff that I am sure addresses these issues on a daily basis in practice. That and recruiting probably take up a lot of their time, actually.

    So, what are a bunch of bright folks left to do, since we don’t go run drills in practice? How about statistically highlight perceived bias? That probably won’t have much impact but who knows- if it is not brought to light, it certainly won’t be discussed and absolutely will NEVER be addressed. Unlike if Gottfried ranted incessantly about officiating bias (or perception thereof), Swofford can’t fine or suspend SFN. I don’t think today’s environment would allow someone to pull a circa mid-80s coach K or anything…

    There is nothing wrong with pointing out officiating sucked in a game, or if it is trending over time. All contributing factors in wins and losses should be taken into consideration for fair analysis.

    Put it another way: if your child fails a test (loses) because they have a lousy teacher (poor officiating) it doesn’t mean your child is an idiot who doesn’t know how to learn (win). Sure, your child could have learned everything from the textbook and tried to correct the teachers errors on their own. But, that’s more of an uphill battle, and the best opportunity to pass the test wasn’t afforded to the child.

  11. Wufpacker 02/17/2012 at 8:02 PM #

    Heck, if we didn’t obsess over things we have no control over, what fun would watching sports be in the first place?

  12. 1990alum 02/17/2012 at 8:06 PM #

    All I would like to see is a group of impartial observers go through the tape of the game and “score” the performance of the officials- quality of calls made, calls missed, etc. Is there a skew in mistakes/omissions and which way does it point? I admit that I have actually perceived a skew towards NC State in some games. But I have NEVER thought it about a game against UNC or Duke.

    Let’s do a check to see if perception is reality. Quantities of fouls called doesn’t mean as much to me – som teams just foul more or less.

    This most likely wouldn’t quantify the impacts on momentum, foul trouble, and other things. But i would just be curious. Actually it would be great if i was standard, Qb rating-ish, and was part of th box score for every game.

  13. Ed89 02/17/2012 at 9:12 PM #

    I’ve got to admit, pbp4th’s 5 recommendations were pretty entertaining…hopefully, Gott went over them with those individuals.

    That being said, yes, we foul. Every damn body on the court does…especially the Plumlees. Our fouls are a result of the team still learning to play aggressive defense. Yes, some were stupid fouls…others were phantom fouls, and yes, some were completely legit. However, I think flops should be technicals…maybe then the technical fouls would start adding up for Duke. Believe me, if one of our players had displayed the reaction of Thorton (or Dawkins) they would have been T’d up. I was proud that our guys (for the most part) did not complain to the officials. I could tell CJL was maturing in front of our eyes with some of his (non) reactions. Kudos to him.

  14. Wolf74 02/17/2012 at 9:27 PM #

    This is so obvious. One team stands out. Even DUKE, who has been arguably better than UNC-CHeats and. at a minumum, least as good doesn’t get the bias that CHeats does.

    Perhaps this has to do with CHeats having their “boy” as ACC commissioner. Perhaps it has to do with all the industry built up to sell their tainted merchandise. Perhaps it has to do with where the ACC offices are located and who owns the building they are in. I don’t care, it is just another case of CHeats continuing to win at any cost including cheating the other schools. IF it is one thing CHeats is the best in the country at, it is CHeating!

    Their football program has embarassed the UNC System and ACC more than any other school ever. THey have a basketball coach that got caught cheating at Kansas. They hired an AD that had his previous school get a LOIC. They have no shame. Heck they even interviewed Larry Brown at one time for basketball coach and were putting out press releases paving the way for his hire that said what he had done to get UCLA and Kansas both put on probation wasn’t that bad. Well is that any surprise to anyone. I don’t know what could be worse than their “business as usual”. They are the master at spin and cheating. Oh yes, and academic fraud!

  15. ADVENTUROO 02/17/2012 at 10:14 PM #

    I did a little digging this afternoon and found a site that had the NCAA Tourney stats for the last 4 years (2008 – 2011). Here are numbers for UNC and Duke.

    UNC – 15 games & Duke – 14
    UNC Differential (fewer fouls that opponent – 3.400 (Actual – NOT rounded
    Duke Differential – 3.14283

    This is CONSISTENT with the graph in the post. Even with NCAA officials, whom I ASSUME have no “ACC” bias, UNC gets whistled LESS by the zebra’s.

    UNC had TWO games where they committed MORE fouls. WON one and LOST one.

    Same for Duke. TWO games with more fouls – One WIN and one LOSS.

    Don’t know what this proves (I looked at the data and did a few simple tests). The data and the ranges look “normal”. Did not run any major statistical analyses, but a quick SD test. The variability in UNC’s opponents fouls was the highest, which makes sense if you deliberately foul at the end trying to win (Jimmy V rule). The difference in the SD was fairly significant. However, in Duke’s case, they had the higher SD, but only slightly higher.

    Bottom Line. The ref’s, for whatever reason, inside and outside the ACC call fewer fouls on UNC and Duke than their respective opponents. Maybe it is the reputation of the coaches or maybe a secret agenda. Whatever it is, it is and is probably DOES impact the outcome of some close games.

  16. pbp4th 02/17/2012 at 10:21 PM #

    Ed89 – agree on Thorton. And he’s supposed to be our leader/top on ball defender. I think the Dawkins thing was pretty harmless enthusiasm.

    Also impressed with Leslie. In fact, the entire team is noticeably more mature mentally and better coached. And the vastly improved schedule would shake Sendek to the core.

    The ACC is a better place when State is good. Losing our annual home and home with you guys is one of the disasters of expansion.

  17. choppack1 02/17/2012 at 11:00 PM #

    Actually – I think Duke may get away with more than UNC. UNC – especially this year – is not a physical team. They don’t have depth at the guard position. Zeller and Henson – on the defensive end – generally have good technique. I don’t think the UNC fouls much. However, the same wasn’t true when Montross was there – or when that little white PG (Wes Miller?) was handchecking Atsur up and down the court a few year ago.

    Duke is a very physical team. They overplay – and they handcheck.

    I thought that we got some calls last night – but there were a lot of fishy ones. Scott Wood was being held ALOT. The Painter sequence was awful.

    And as I pointed out on the Forums – if you saw the Youtube with the original ACC officiating thread – you would have seen Les Jones making a horrid call at a key point in that Duke-State game. Here he was, officiating again.

    There is a reason why some of us loathe playing Duke or UNC in basketball and why we’ve come despise ACC basketball in general. It’s not because they are good. It’s because we know we’ll have to beat them by 20 points to win the game by 5 points. We’ve got a better chance of beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa in football than we do of beating Duke in Cameron Indoor. We hate it because the officiating is inconsistent and if you aren’t Duke or UNC, you won’t ever be on the right side of that horrid call.

  18. Mike 02/17/2012 at 11:04 PM #

    Someone said it best the other day and I wish I remember who so I could give proper credit.

    IF UNX players were that much better coached and that much better athletes, their “coaching” would carry over to the next level. So for fun, I have been perusing NBA box scores (and I HATE the NBA) to check. Hanswalker had 4 fouls in 19 minutes the other night for one example. Across the board, UNX players foul just as much on the next level as the other NBA players. Did they forget their teaching?

  19. redcanine 02/17/2012 at 11:46 PM #

    Good work on the graphs, I think. IDK, for a minute I thought I was looking at a crackhead’s EKG. JK.

    But seriously, the refs really clipped our wings at Ca’moron Indoor. The more points we scored, the better the refs vision became.

  20. glenn123 02/18/2012 at 6:49 AM #

    Interesting that almost all the teams for almost the entire period studied have a negative differential. If the games studied were only conf games you’d expect the differentials to average to zero, right?

    So this includes all games…conf and non-conf.

    So I think you need to conclude that the conspiracy is greater than just within the ACC: Clearly there is a broader conspiracy to favor ACC teams against teams from any other conferences. With this in mind, I don’t think leaving the ACC is any kind of solution for the Pack–if they left they would suffer the foul differential bias when playing any of the members of their former conf. Any kind of triumphant return against old conf foes would be made difficult by this pro ACC officiating

    -team bias withheld, you wouldn’t like it 🙂

  21. choppack1 02/18/2012 at 8:26 AM #

    If I had the time I’d research other conferences and look at the foul discrepencies there.

  22. Rick 02/18/2012 at 9:55 AM #

    “delete a post that is neither crass or particularly inflammatory? sorry i have a different opinion. i guess that’s one way to be right.”

    I did not delete it but I am sure whoever did had a good reason.

    However, for a Duke fan to come on this site the day after an emotional loss act all condescending and arrogant (which is par for the course with Duke fans) is asinine at best.

  23. Rick 02/18/2012 at 9:56 AM #

    And you never did answer my question. I am sure I know the reason for that.

    “It’s far more plausible that the foul differencial has to do with playing with the lead on a regular basis (typically encouraging the opponent to foul more frequently – especially late).”

    Then why would Duke have fewer fouls than NCSU last night. They led the ENTIRE game and yet remarkably were called for more fouls.

  24. wolfmanmat 02/18/2012 at 10:49 AM #

    I agree on the Carolina point. They do get calls…and their players are usually more talented and they play with the lead, so all can happen. Though, I remember some stat from the title UNC won versus Illinois(something to this effect): Illinois starting center fouled out in fewer minutes played than anyone in recorded tourney history. Still, officials reward talent. I do disagree on the Duke point. Duke is winning more ACC games over the last 5 years and UNC still leads in foul margin but Duke wins completely different than UNC. They aren’t a team that draws alot of fouls(ie. they take a ton of 3’s and don’t usually have guys who draw alot of fouls through penetration). They also defend better than normal UNC teams, so they are going to foul more.

    On the recent State game: officiating was pretty fair in that game IMO. I hate it when we come out and blame officials for what the players didn’t do well. Richard Howell fouls. It’s what he does. He uses his fouls on stupid plays too…The refs didn’t call but maybe 1 foul on him that wasn’t deserved and ALL his fouls were called when he was way out of position or in the open court(like the one at halfcourt where he stuck his leg out). CJ Leslie had 6-8 blocks with no fouls called. If you play that agressive, there’s going to be fouls called. IMO his fouls were all pretty fair calls too. Finally, the Plums lack of fouls speaks more to the Plums than the officials. State dominated the Plums on the boards and neither was a real factor in the game. The reason the Pack lost was Seth Curry got hot and State isn’t a great scoring team, not the officials.

  25. Thinkpack17 02/18/2012 at 12:45 PM #

    ^What about CJ Williams? Does he foul a lot? Did you see how he picked up his 4th?

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