NCAA DI Basketball Oversight Committees sent memos stressing the importance of sportsmanship and good conduct this season

Compared to opening day last season, there were two more technical fouls called against men's basketball teams on Wednesday despite 41 fewer games

On the opening day of the college basketball season on Wednesday, there were 28 technical fouls called in 107 men’s basketball games involving Division I teams, which was an increase from the 26 technical fouls called in 148 games on the opening day of the 2019-20 men’s basketball season, which included six technicals in a game between San Diego State and Texas Southern.

The number of technical fouls on Wednesday was a subtle difference between two admittedly limited sample sizes – there were 0.26 technical fouls per men’s basketball game on Wednesday compared to 0.17 per game on the first day of games last season – but it’s the timing of the increase in technicals that is particularly noteworthy. Just nine days before the start of the season, every Division I men’s basketball head coach and athletic director received a memo from the NCAA that stressed the importance of sportsmanship during the 2020-21 season, according to a copy of the memo obtained by Out of Bounds.

On Nov. 16, Judy MacLeod, who’s the commissioner of Conference USA and the chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, sent a memo to all of the DI men’s basketball head coaches and athletic directors that started with, “As basketball’s regular season begins, the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee wants to emphasize its clear expectations regarding sportsmanship: The highest level of respect and integrity, which embody good sportsmanship, must be exhibited throughout the 2020-21 Division I Men’s Basketball Season and Championship.”

The memo, which featured sentences written in bold font, some that were in bold and italics, and others that were written in bold font and underlined, said that athletic directors and coaches have a responsibility to be role models.

The next day, Lisa Campos, who’s the athletic director at UTSA and the chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee, sent a similar memo to every DI women’s basketball head coach and athletic director.

Copies of both memos are available at the end of this newsletter.

“Basketball is a competitive game which, by its very nature, may lead to adversarial relationships between opponents,” MacLeod wrote in the men’s basketball memo. “However, the relationship should not foster a negative interaction. Individuals should employ a behavior that respects the skill level of an opponent and should not create an atmosphere that negatively influences the attitude of the game.

Accordingly, the committee would like institutions and conferences to take strong action in response to any form of misconduct and/or unsportsmanlike behavior by student-athletes, coaches and/or administrators/support personnel during the season. In this regard, the Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee expects all game officials to strictly and consistently enforce bench decorum and strictly enforce the coaching box rules.”

Not only was that last phrase written in bold font, but it was underlined, too.

Both memos outlined the negative impact of unsportsmanlike conduct, such as profane or derogatory remarks directed towards an opposing player or an official, or continual criticism regarding the same incident after receiving a warning from an official.

“When these activities are witnessed by fans in attendance, or by those watching a broadcast, such actions also damage the game – which is a concern to all that support the principles of sportsmanship,” both memos read. “All stakeholders must agree that behavior exhibited by coaches, student-athletes and institutional personnel should portray the highest ideals of higher education and intercollegiate athletics.”

In a season that already is different than past seasons – from a delayed start, to 10 schools not participating at all, to some conference schedules in which schools will play the same opponent twice in the same weekend at the same location – the way that conferences and individual schools handle the conduct of their coaches and players is another part of the sport worth monitoring.

If officials appear to have a particularly quick whistle regarding a player or coach’s behavior or sportsmanship, or if there’s an increase in the number public reprimands from conferences against coaches who have public outbursts, or if school-issued punishments feel particularly heavy-handed at times this season, then the memos from the DI Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees could help explain why.

Or, the enforcement of conduct on the sideline and during college basketball games could take a similar trajectory as seasons in which there’s a stated emphasis in officiating, when the emphasis seems to wane over the course of the season.

If you’re a fan of Arizona State, Marquette, SMU, VCU or one of the 14 other men’s basketball teams that were on the receiving end of at least one technical foul on the opening day of the season, maybe it’s because your favorite team’s head coach or athletic director didn’t read the memo they received a week and a half ago closely enough.

Or maybe, it’s because the players and coaches who got T’d up acted no differently than they have in the past, but the standard of behavior and the level of enforcement has only increased.

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The DI Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee’s memo to head coaches and athletics directors

The DI Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee’s memo to head coaches and athletic directors

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Recap of the last newsletter

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“However, despite the war of words between the schools’ football coaches, the two university presidents were apparently in agreement.

“In an email Florida State President Thrasher sent Saturday evening to Florida State alum, retired faculty member and longtime booster Jim Riscigno, Thrasher wrote, ‘The President of Clemson and I talked and he concurred with the decision,’ in regards to a conversation with Clemson President James Clements.”

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Thank you for reading this edition of Out of Bounds with Andy Wittry. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it on social media or sending it to a friend or colleague. Questions, comments and feedback are welcome at andrew.wittry@gmail.com or on Twitter.