The University Athletic Association of the Philippines, by its decision overturning the ruling by Commissioner Ato Badolato in the recent game between Far Eastern University and National University has effectively, and wrongly, undermined the authority of its Commissioner.
In the September 2 game FEU's RR Garcia scored on what appeared to be a buzzer-beating layup with one-tenths of a second left on the shot clock which was shown on the ABS-CBN Studio 23 replay.
NU protested what they felt was an inconclusive ending and claimed the shot should not have been counted, which would have meant sending the game into overtime.
The referees counted the basket. Commissioner Badolato, a multi-awarded coach and a longtime collegiate basketball icon, threw out the NU protest and upheld the referees' decision.
When the UAAP appointed Badolato as Commissioner they surely didn't expect him to serve as a mere game-day official. He was — and certainly should have been - given all the powers vested in men like NBA Commissioner David Stern, PBA Commissioner Chito Salud and the FIBA secretary-general. To do otherwise would be to undermine the Commissioner's authority and weaken his position and allow the Board to effectively dictate how the league is run and how decisions are to be reached.
Regrettably, NU officials elevated the case to the Board which overturned the decision of Badolato and ordered a replay on September 23 which effectively helps the cause of the Bulldogs in qualifying for the Final Four.
The NU decision to elevate the case to the Board leaves a poor taste in the mouth because they are the hosts.
In defense of its decision the UAAP board stated that "pieces of evidences/statements/video used in the deliberation were inconclusive and unclear." Fine.
Inconclusive means it could work both ways. Inconclusive in counting the basket and inconclusive in disallowing it!
In the history of basketball, collegiate and professional throughout the world, judgment calls by referees are never overturned. To count the basket was a judgment call as indeed all counted baskets are.
If the issue was considered a technicality in relation to the shot clock and that was inconclusive to quote the UAAP Board, then who should logically have the advantage in such a situation? The offensive team or the defensive team? History shows it's always the offensive team. This is also evident when there is a thin line between a blocking foul and a charging foul.
It is worth pointing out that the Commissioner of any league — basketball, baseball, volleyball, etc. - is expected to use his powers to uphold or override the decision of the referees based on his professional judgment and to act in a manner that he believes is in the best interests of the league, in this case the UAAP.
One could never, ever imagine NBA Commissioner David Stern or even PBA Commissioner Atty. Chito Salud allowing the board or the team owners to overturn a game-related decision.
We recall that some years ago during an NBA season opener in Tokyo, Commissioner Stern, while discussing his role in relation to referees, quoted a top basketball official as saying "even if the attempt of a player didn't go in and my referees counted it, it's counted." That was the fundamental principle of respect and adherence to the authority vested in the referees, because to do otherwise would give way to various calls being contested and would result in anarchy.
Philippine Games and Amusements Board chairman Monchu Guanzon sent us an e-mail giving us his views as a former Commissioner of the NBA — the Negros Basketball Association - who faced a somewhat similar situation years ago.
He said "As a former commissioner of the NBA (Negros Basketball Association) in its most popular year, I have experienced the shortcomings of having the NBA Board composed of member teams decide controversial outcome of games. It is clearly impossible for the member representatives to vote without their own team's interest at the back of their minds. As for me it is a clear case of conflicting interest to decide impartially in controversial situations. As a condition for me to remain as commissioner of NBA then, I insisted that I be the sole arbiter in all protests and avoid having to argue with member teams all of whom have their own interest to protect and advance. The NBA then unanimously granted my demand."
Citing the controversy in the FEU-NU game and the UAAP Board's decision to reverse Badolato's ruling, the Commissioner insisted that "because the evidence shown on video is inconclusive and unclear, the ruling on the court should stand. You only reverse decision on the court if the evidence is conclusive and clear enough to be reversed. This principle is being followed by all major sports in the USA ever since instant video replays have been utilized by these major sports to review the correctness of decisions and rulings on the court or field in the case of baseball and American football."
When the first secretary general of FIBA — William Jones — ordered the officials to put three seconds back on the clock on the basis of a clock malfunction in the gold medal game between the United States and the Soviet Union at the Munich Olympic Games of 1972, it allowed the Soviets to win 51-50 on a buzzer-beater by Alexander Belov.
The FIBA official was later quoted as saying "The Americans have to learn how to lose even when they think they are right."
This may well apply to National University and serve as a lesson for the UAAP Board.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.