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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: What Percentage Impact do Refs Have?


(photo courtesy of Deadspin)

I’ll be honest, I can’t stand the “blame the refs” fan and I know many of you agree with me on that.  That fan thinks every call that goes for your team was the right one and every one that goes against is the wrong one.  And above all else, it’s probably a conspiracy to screw your team.  For those who listen to the radio show, you heard Chester argue that Vegas paid off the refs against Wisconsin.  Certainly, we have a sliver of fans that act that way in UK world, but every fanbase does.  Look at UL fans.  They continue, to this day, to claim the officials screwed them out of the game against UK in the Sweet 16 in 2014.  It’s quite annoying because it ignores that refs have about a 20% impact in my opinion on a game in the long run.

But in this NCAA Tournament and Final Four, we really did see refs dip to a new low.  Not only were there numerous poor calls and no-calls, but then they blew three different replay calls as well.  So even when given 2nd, 3rd, and 4th looks at a call, they still don’t get it right.  So it’s safe to say my opinion on how much a ref affects a game might be changing as the quality of official declines.

Now, playing devils advocate and let’s use the Final Four loss to Wisconsin as an example:

1. Referees blew obvious calls on the shot clock violation and the out of bounds call.  Those 2 calls directly led to 4 Wisconsin points.

2. But, what about the officials caused UK to commit 3 consecutive shot clock violations.  Or Trey Lyles charge.  Nothing the officials did caused Dekker to hit the step back 3-pointer either.

Did the refs have an impact on the game?  Of course, and it was in crucial times.  But they did not cost UK that game.  And frankly, at the end of the day, made shots and missed shots are almost entirely on the players.  Turnovers are almost entirely on the players.  Refs can dictate the flow of the game and foul trouble, but that is also assuming every foul call is incorrect.  The fact is that 90% of foul calls are the correct call.  We only focus on the bad ones.

The point is this: refs are an easy target and sometimes they deserve to be.  The quality of officiating has gone down over the last 5-10 years at both the college and pro level.  But just because that is the case doesn’t mean that officials decide who wins and loses games.  They don’t.  Their decisions are not always right, but the actions of the players still are the main impact on a game.  Officials are rarely the cause for a guy to shoot 1-10 or why a team allows an opponent to score 45 points.

I think officials have around a 20% impact on a game.  Does putting a guy into foul trouble impact a game?  Timing is a consideration on many of these calls too.  But at the end of the day, a player has 4 times the impact on a game than an official in most cases.  And I always wish that the sliver of fans who think refs have it out for them could see the bigger picture of things and recognize that sometimes it their guy and not the guy in the stripped shirt that makes the most impact.

What say you?  Do refs actually have a direct effect on the outcome of the game or do they just play a small role in what truly goes on?  I say 20% impact.  Too much or too little?

Article written by Bryan the Intern

29 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: What Percentage Impact do Refs Have?



  1. TheDon
    9:17 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Lets get lawyer Matt Jones on this one – courts deal with relative causation all the time. Perhaps we can agree that refs are a “substantial factor” in the outcome of a certain game…but it doesnt mean that the refs are dispositive.

    Teams can always put themselves in a situation where the refs cant break the game…UK vs Kansas or UCLA….but that doesnt mean we should overlook the obvious decline in officiating.

    SUGGESTION: lets add an additional ref for the tourney, or maybe even 2 extra for the sweet 16 on…one in the replay booth, and an additional one to watch off-ball action.



    • Sasquatch
      10:51 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

      Another suggestion, move the block/charge to the benefit of the offense (like the NBA) and call it a block if it’s questionable at all. This would remove the guys that can’t play defense sliding under the driver. Add a continuation for the and one’s (like the NBA), and now teams that can’t guard anyone will be exposed and the players that are truly talented will have an opportunity to shine.



    • Sasquatch
      10:53 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

      You almost never hear teams/fans/players losing their minds about the calls made on the NBA courts or the refs impact on the game.



  2. deltasig41
    9:19 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    I don’t think you can say they referees didn’t decide the outcome, at least definitively. Quite frankly…We don’t know for sure whether they did or not. Just look at the shot-clock violation no-call and leave everything else as is…Those two points COMPLETELY changed the complexion of the game…COMPLETELY changed the way the game was played in the last two and a half minutes. Instead of playing with a lead, the game is tied. Instead of having to foul and put Wisconsin on the line, we are defending straight up. Instead of jacking up a quick three from 30-feet, we run offense and maybe get a bucket (maybe not, who knows?).

    I don’t expect officials to get every call right. But I do expect them to get OBVIOUS calls like that correct. I expect them to go to a monitor, see a replay, and get a call right. No-calls on fouls and stuff like that tends to even itself out, so I don’t get too caught up in that. But major calls that any joe-blow at home can see should be correct. Every. Single. Time.

    Maybe Wisconsin still wins even if the shot clock violation is called. Maybe they don’t. But we’ll never know. And I think that’s all anybody really wanted.



  3. metrueblue
    9:25 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Okay…point taken…but I respectfully disagree. The two most blatant no-calls Saturday maybe didn’t technically cost UK the game. But…they were most definitely momentum changers. That is the key. Momentum is king in late game situations. If affects the players on both sides and because of that, I submit that those two calls did in fact affect the games outcome.



  4. dragonlord741
    9:30 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    One could argue that the Lyles charge was a Dekker flop pretty easily actually. In the NBA, I think they review it and call it a flop. There were 5 pretty questionable (or drastically obviously wrong) calls in our game with Wisconsin:
    1. Broening out of bounds doesn’t establish himself in bounds and gets an easy layup (Wisc + 2 – 1st half)
    2. Andrew draws a charge on a Wisc kick out that results in a 3 (should have been a charge – Wisc was either in the 1 and 1 or ball out of bounds. Possibly Wisc -2).
    3. Lyles “slap” – I think it should have been a flagrant 1, not sure how it wasn’t called that honestly (Wisc 2 shots and ball)
    4. Shot clock violation (Wisc +2, enough said).
    5. Dekker flop on Lyles with about a minute left (UK – 2 assuming Lyles hits the bunny after Dekker has flopped out of the way)

    All said, on known results, Wisconsin is +6, but the two unknowns (because of foul shots/possession) could result in Wisconsin getting anywhere from 0 to 9 points (miss all FTs, or make the early ones, get the rebounds on the second, hit threes on second possession).

    Considering Wisconsin only won by 7, with 4 of those coming on late free throws on intentional fouls, Wisc getting an extra couple of points on those calls is a HUGE impact. Completely changes the flow of the last few minutes of that game. If they don’t get that 2 from the shot clock violation, I think Cal calls timeout to settle things – if UK scores, now they’re up 4-5 with slightly over 2 minutes to go, instead of being tied and then suddenly down 3 when Dekker hits the step back 3.



    • BTownUKFan
      9:36 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

      I agree. The most blatant being the missed call on the shot clock violation. That changes the way the last 2 minutes played out.

      I think the reason there was a no call on the Lyles “slap”. The contact was made with Lyle’s wrist not his hand and it was to the lower jaw area. The kid went down holding his head. I think the refs thought it was incidental contact by Lyles in trying to get the ball and the kid flopped.



    • RealCatsFan
      12:44 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

      If you watch the full replay prior to the “flagrant” foul, you will see that the Wisconsin player was holding down both of Trey’s hands, almost in a bear hug. Lyles’ motion was kind of a “get your hands off of me” reaction. I think when the refs reviewed it and saw that they should have called a foul on the Wisconsin player prior to this, they decided a flagrant was not justified.



  5. Brink133
    9:34 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    2. What impact did the refs have…….
    How about 6 or 7 hard fouls and at least two guys getting hit in the head during the 3 shot clock violations? We should have shot 6 free throws during that span. Instead we shot none. So if the shot clock violation and out of bounds were called, and we hit 4 of 6 fts that we should have shot, we would have been up 6 or 8 in the final 2 mins, not tied.



  6. KSR Spy
    9:42 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    There are all kinds of points one could make, especially if you say that both teams were equal…2-4 points in blown calls matters A LOT.

    But let us use your TERRIBLE logic instead.

    20% affect on a game. So that’s 20% of the defense and 20% of the offense. Let’s say it’s a 60 point game for both teams. That’s 24 points total. Let’s just say the bad calls even out for both teams for 10% and it’s only 10% of a swing. This is probably close to accurate for both Kentucky getting hosed and then Wisconsin getting hosed. That’s still a 12 POINT SWING!!! Which is pretty accurate if you go back and watch the UK/Wisconsin game. It is also pretty close to what Wisconsin got hosed by in the Championship game. THAT’S HUGE!!!!!!!!

    Bottom line is, Kentucky got hosed against Wisconsin and then Wisconsin got hosed against Duke.

    Big money was on Kentucky, Kentucky lost. Big money swung to Wisconsin for the championship game. Wisconsin lost. Vegas Wins. Vegas doesn’t lose big money. Smallest hit is if Duke wins the title. Duke wins.



  7. KevinM
    9:54 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Simply put, the refs have too much of an impact because they don’t call the games consistently, and I’m talking 1st half and 2nd half. But there’s zilch excuse not to call that shot clock violation. The only question is which ref was responsible because all 3 aren’t in charge of that.



  8. AncientOne
    10:03 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    We need another team like the 1996 tournament team where you just overpower other teams to the point that all the bad officiating doesn’t even matter.



  9. kingrex3
    10:11 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    DragonLord makes ALOT of great points above. Something to add to that: We can’t look just at the calls as isolated instances. Many (If not most) of the calls had huge affects on momentum. Start w/ the kid NOT re-establishing himself inbounds. As good a Wisky played in the 1st half, had we gone into halftime up 2-6 points, that has a psychological effect on them. Same goes for the Dekker flop and ESPECIALLY the missed shot clock violation. All had major affects on momentum!!!

    Another point on the fouls called… even IF the refs get 90% of the fouls right, that’s not the full story. The fouls that were NOT called… We ALL know, Kaminsky fouled far more than he was called for. Those uncalled fouls and possible subsequent FT’s would have been huge.



    • EdC
      10:58 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

      Dekker committed a foul every single time he drove by making space with his off hand. Not only did they never call any of them, our players got called for several fouls on drives where the play should have already been dead by the rules.

      I do think the officials cost UK that game. HOWEVER that should not have been possible. The most glaring example is Willie’s standing around doing absolutely nothing on the offensive end. His only job on that end is to set a few picks and rebound. Frank outrebounded him 12-0. Just a few rebounds and possibly a put back or 2 and UK wins and that lack of effort was totally in UK’s control. Calipari has said over and over and over that a lack of effort will get a player pulled. True for some players but apparently not true for Willie. There is no way anybody is going to convince me that Frank Kaminsky is so much better than Willie that he can shut him out at 12-0 if Willie is making any effort and knows anything at all about rebounding fundamentals.



  10. Time Expired
    10:11 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Only 20% ? If the refs affect the game that much then it is critical that the calls be right. Come on 20% is huge.



  11. not
    10:29 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Wow, BTI SUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS. This is the dumbest piece I’ve ever read



    • UK Big Board Update
      1:34 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

      You should head over to the Tard forums and see their take on officiating. You think BTI is an idiot? You aint seen nothin’ yet…..



    • ukjaybrat
      2:25 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

      They probably think UK got all the calls… they never see when calls go the other way. don’t know if they are all blinking at exactly the right time or if they are all just wearing reality distortion glasses. it’s just irionic because they think uk fans are delusional. at least most people will agree that bad calls go both ways in most games. not UL fans… they think UK gets ALL the calls in EVERY game.



    • UK Big Board Update
      2:45 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

      They think that UK and Cal actually PAY the refs. I’m not making this up.



  12. FlySoup
    10:39 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Where are you getting your 20%? It seems like you arbitrarily chose that number.



  13. Saul T. Nuts
    10:53 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Dragonlord nailed it, and once again BTI sucks a big one.



  14. dragonlord741
    11:58 am April 8, 2015 Permalink

    The big thing is, I understand that refs will make mistakes, they ARE only human after all. But in the tournament at least, no matter HOW much time is left, they should use technology to fix obvious mistakes (like the shot clock, and you could also somewhat argue the establishing in bounds on Koening). For a title to hang in the balance, and to say, “oh, there was 2:40 left, not 1:59” is completely and utterly asinine. Of course, as the ball off Winslow’s finger in the title game showed, even when the refs review, they’re liable to get it wrong, so I’m sure that they would have somehow showed that the shot clock wasn’t violated too…so yeah….



    • ukjaybrat
      2:26 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

      “The big thing is, I understand that refs will make mistakes, they ARE only human after all”

      Then hire 1 or 2 more officials to watch live video and off-ball action… there’s no reason that “because they are human” is an excuse to get calls that are THAT obvious incorrect



  15. jonthes
    12:31 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

    UK lost to WISC by 7, but most of that was desperation fouls and their free throws. Four points before that and it’s a different game. Hell yeah they have an impact. I think Andrew was so outraged that he had a brain freeze, UK didn’t have ten shot clock violations all season. Usually the refs don’t have that much of an impact, but Sat – and Mon – they did.



  16. new dreamer
    1:06 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Most UK fans are basketball knowledgeable and we know how much the refs love coach Cal & the CATS. We’re the darlings of the NCAA and the pride of the SEC. We know they would never paint the CATS in a negative manner and would give praise to Cal and his team for their great accomplishments.

    How many games have we seen the refs with their golden whistles destroy a game’s tempo and make it unbearable to watch. They seemingly see things that can only be seen through the eye of an eagle. But in the Wisconsin game they become three blind mice on the shot clock violation and on the illegal touching from the out of bounds play. That’s a 4 point swing which changed the strategy of the game. They also became three blind mice on some other questionable calls that may have lead to the results that they desired. And if you don’t think some of their calls lead to the final outcome, I’M NOT BUYING.

    It’s true that refs make mistaken calls, but this was the final four and deserved the unbiased best of the best. But is that possible with UK playing? Remember how well we’re loved.



  17. Ken Grizzle
    1:37 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Referees sure can’t really influence a blow-out but they damn sure can dictate who wins the close ones as per Wisc, in both games. Saturday night should/would have been different with a consistently called game-foul wise. Monday night they definitely whistled Wisconsin our and dUKe in…end of story.



  18. ukfaningatorland
    2:02 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Refs did the same to WI in the Dook invitational tourny

    If you want to beat Dook you need to be up 20 to have a chance

    It’s not that the refs control the whole game but it is disheartening
    when they decide to change the outcome of a game in the last 4 to 6 minutes.



  19. marylandcat
    3:02 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

    Wisconsin absolutely got screwed. Duke man-handled Gonzaga, Michigan State, and Wisconsin defensively. They got away with hand-checking, grabbing jerseys, holding,etc. Most of this stuff was “off the ball,” so casual fans weren’t seeing it. But if you look at a tape of the Wisconsin game, you will see Duke’s players hand-checking, etc. Only Coach K’s teams don’t get called for this stuff. Bo Ryan was pissed after the game and alluded to all the off-the-ball contact. Also, Duke was man-handling Kyle Wiltjer and other Gonzaga players and got away with it. Second, Duke got so many whistles when their guys would drive–out of control–to the basket and then initiate contact with the Wisconsin defender. There were 7 or 8 calls like this that should have never been whistled.



  20. Smidgerine
    4:13 pm April 8, 2015 Permalink

    When I saw the 20% I thought you’ve got to be kidding me. If it were really that high there’d be no sense in watching any of it because even at the terrible scoring we now have, it would almost mean that they DECIDE every game.

    We love basketball, but I honestly think anytime the end of the game spread is less than 5, you really don’t know who won. Sad but true. And when I mean less than 5, I definitely include UK’s loss to WI in there. It was 1 point with less than a minute left, I believe.

    The reason we had a chance to go 40-0 was because this team was MOSTLY immune to the whistle. You could have nearly anyone in foul trouble and it wouldn’t kill us. But, I didn’t expect all these non-judgement calls like the out of bounds come in-bounds play or the shot clock play to come into effect. Those are just ludicrous. A shot clock violation should be reviewable ANYTIME, so that needs to be fixed.

    And this is all sort of chaos theory. Some of the calls in the first half could have allowed us to get up large and force WI to do things uncharacteristic of their general play. But, I concur with most, that it is the late game scenarios like our shot clock violation no-call that absolutely kill you the most. It was the first time I thought fear was in our eyes. Harrisons were visibly upset and were calling for it. I just completely changed the mojo and there just wasn’t any time to get it back. Even with the Lyles call (regardless of the possible bear hug by Gasser) made, it could have been a tie game if they make the free throws and then score. Our strategy would have changed, but most importantly we would still have over 8 minutes to get the mojo back.