Dick Harmon: Jimmer Fredette's latest frontier — officiating

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 13 2015 7:04 a.m. MDT

PROVO — So, what is it with Jimmer and whistles?

Is the challenge for MWC officials to manage a game with Fredette affecting how games are called?

With the increased Jimmer attention are we seeing heightened scrutiny, escalating defender physicality and swelling criticism of favoritism by opposing coaches mixed with Jimmer's own increased animation after no calls?

I don't like making drama over officiating. It is a tough and thankless job and generally it isn't the deciding factor. Attacking officials is generally an excuse by those who lose. I don't attack it here, but I do examine.

Are we seeing trends with Jimmer?


For Fredette, it's getting more and more physical, and he doesn't like it.

In the last few games, Fredette has broken an admired trait of not complaining to officials. That may bring a collective reaction from officiating crews as word spreads that he's drawing negative attention to them personally. They don't like it.

It is a huge challenge to call a game with a player like Fredette. He draws a lot of physical defensive attention from baseline to baseline. Multiple defenders come at him and his remarkable ability to move with the ball allows him to get past one guy, but another defender comes crashing toward him at full speed.

He is good at creating contact from an opponent while dribbling and shooting. There are plenty of calls that could go either way.

Officiating is a headache.

I thought Utah coach Jim Boylen framed it nicely on Saturday:

"He (Fredette) gets to the line on a couple of plays where I think they are hard plays to ref," he said. "He's a hard guy to officiate. There were two of the harder guys to officiate in the league on the floor tonight.

"Jiggy Watkins plays through contact as well as anybody. He gets bumped, he doesn't get knocked off his line, even (so) at times, I think he gets fouled. I think Jimmer is hard to referee because he's got guys on his hip a lot and he's so strong and he's able to elevate over people. It is a very difficult game to officiate. Very difficult."

At the end of the Utah game, official Mike Reed asked BYU coach Dave Rose to take Fredette out because of the physical play. Fredette's emotional reaction and the score made it necessary.

"Games are officiated differently," said Rose. "That's one of the keys to a great player is to adjust to how the game is called. I think Jimmer's done a great job of that. I think tonight, Utah did a terrific job of guarding him and Jimmer did a great job responding, making winning plays. But he (Reed) just wanted to make sure the game ended on a positive note."

Rose and Fredette expect more physical play. Some BYU fans see it as a mugging.

"Jimmer and I talk about that all the time," Rose said Monday. "What I think the difference is is that we're playing teams now for the second time. That in itself can cause a little more frustration in any sport at any level. You have to adjust to each individual referee crew that is going to call the game and then accept how it's being called and then adjust and play from there.

"He'll see a lot of players in a lot of situations throughout the league and maybe become a little more chippy."

Do officiating crews decide before a game how it will be called? Do officials react to a player's stardom? If a player becomes whiny, do officials tell themselves it's going to be hard for the guy to get a call or two until he knocks it off?

The answer is yes, to all, according to a veteran college official I spoke with on Monday while researching to understand the dynamics of officiating and their approach to games and star players.

He made the following points:

Officials enter a game wanting as little as possible to do with outcome of the game. Then they step in to "manage" the game by calling the obvious. Then it becomes more management. Managing a Fredette game is very hard.

Coaches and officials like it when they can keep a certain player's number out of the books, and they do it for both sides. Fredette falls into this category.

Coaches want every call in their favor, but appreciate officials who may forgo a call, but warn players if it happens again, they will be whistled. Good officials do that for both sides. Jimmer and his defenders have to be talked to.

Officials have to react to "airborne" fouls where an offensive player's health is vulnerable. Other musts are "head shots" and "neon light" calls that you just have to whistle because it is so blatant and obvious. Fredette gets airborne a lot.

If a "type of call" is made on one end, coaches and referees like to see that "type of call" made on the other end. If Jimmer receives a call, Jiggy should receive the same.

Coaches hate picky, little hand-checking and traveling calls because they take away a possession over something usually meaningless. With Fredette, how much a defender's hands on his hip should be allowed as control advantage is a challenge? Frequently putting Fredette on the free-throw line can change a game.

Officials do react to whining and crying over calls by players. Such behavior shows them up and it can lead to a technical foul or could result in allowing physical play on that player.

So, there, I dipped my toe into a pool usually best left without ripples.

Bottom line?

It is hard to officiate a game with Fredette, who is the face of college basketball today. He's a volatile commodity because in BYU's offense he possesses the ball more than 60 percent of the time.

Fredette is likely to get more calls at home (16-for-16 free throws vs. UNLV) than on the road (2-of-5 free throws vs. New Mexico.) Yet, he made 16-of-17 on the road at Colorado State.

And if increasing physical play by opposing defenders frustrates the Jimmer and the Jimmer gets emotional, it will likely backfire on him immediately or in an upcoming game with either the same crew or others.

Here's the dilemma: Fredette has gone harder to the floor in the Air Force and Utah games than any two back-to-back games this season. Second-time-around games in league play are becoming tougher and tougher.

It is the same with officiating, a fascinating matrix.

Call it Jimmer's latest frontier.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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