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‘Technical’ly absurd

For the love of the game, it's time to change the rule

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David Rogombe

When will we stop punishing athletes for being athletic?

I have many gripes with high school officials, but this is my biggest issue by far. Student athletes grind day in-and-out for the opportunity to break away with a steal and slam down a massive dunk. They’ve grown up watching the King posterize over an opponent after a beautiful toss up from Kyrie, Wade or Kuzma. Surely they imagine doing the same in the midst of a hot game. 

The fact is: you can embarrass an opponent without being a jerk.  

The basic premise of the current rule for in-game dunks is: dunking is allowed as long as the clock isn’t stopped due to a timeout or other reason. Furthermore, the rule states “a player must grab the ball outside the basket and cylinder.”  

To go even further, players who slap the backboard or hang from the rim after an attempted dunk is deemed a tech.  

That all makes sense semantically, with the part about the “attempted dunk” as the most striking and probably tends to be the linchpin in this entire rule. The willingness referees have to hand out a technical, though, is absurd. 

A clear example of this is that players need to hang onto the rim if they throw down a two-handed dunk for clear safety reasons — whether for a teammate or opponents safety or their own. Recently, a video blew up on Twitter because a player was T’d up after hanging onto the rim after a successful dunk. He held on for one second because the restricted zone was full of teammates and opponents. Before this video hit the waves, one much closer to home got the same attention for the opposite reason.  

A player from Fairmont threw down a beautiful, powerful dunk and held onto the rim for one second because the entire backboard moved. Again, a clear case of safety, the referees did not give him a technical, probably because they realized if he let go he would break his nose on the floor. I could go on about rims that are raised to the ceiling and why they shouldn’t be in a high school gym, but I’ll spare both of us that 20 minutes – but my point being, older basketball fans were upset he wasn’t called for the technical.  

I can't even give area referees credit for not T'ing up dunkers – Washington's David Rogombe (pictured above) got a technical for a one-handed slam in their home game against Hampshire. Aside from West Virginia, a huge controversy broke out last season in Maine when players in the state tournament got technicals for dunks that weren’t issues in the regular season.   

A notable quote in the Press Herald’s article is, “‘The grasping the rim rule is archaic and it needs to go,’ said Hampden Academy boys’ coach Russ Bartlett, whose team is one of 10 playing for state championships this week.” 

Further down, the writer, Steve Craig, cites the rule book and then follows up with a quote from an official:  

“Rule 10, Section 4, Article 3 on player technical fouls, states: a player shall not: grasp either basket ring at any time during the game except to prevent injury. 

‘The problem with that is we’re the only state calling it this way,’ said Mike Rutherford, a Portland resident who serves as a basketball game official at both the high school and college level. 

Rutherford believes the rule is being enforced more in the playoffs at the behest of the head of the Maine Basketball Commission, which oversees officiating at high school games.  

‘Right now I believe officials are calling that (rule), knowing their supervisor, Peter Webb, wants it called,” Rutherford said. “It’s well known that he wants the technical foul called for grasping the rim.’” 

Before this controversy hits West Virginia even more, my solution would be to petition the national committee to adjust the rule to three seconds. Keep the unsportsmanlike aspect of the rule, obviously that needs to stay. But for the love of the game, please let kids just have fun.

Sports Editor

A West Virginia native and 2017 graduate of WVU, Andrew writes about local high school sports from his new home in Charles Town. He also covers Shepherd and his alma mater, while still finding time to rant about the Washington Redskins.

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