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Marquette's Darryl Morsell, left, and Seton Hall's Bryce Aiken (1) react to a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Milwaukee. Marquette beat Seton Hall 73-72.(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Despite Officiating Issues, BIG EAST Remains Silent

On Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals won their first playoff game in 31 years. Quarterback Joe Burrow had an exceptional showing, throwing for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Las Vegas Raiders in the NFL's Wild Card Round.

One of those touchdowns was shrouded in controversy.

In a second quarter drive, Burrow rolled out of the pocket, spotting receiver Tyler Boyd in the back of the end zone. He fired a dart and Boyd came down with the pass for a Bengals touchdown.

As Burrow released the pass, an errant whistle was blown by the officials, which had the Raider defense slam the breaks before finishing the play.

Per the NFL rulebook, when a whistle is blown, the ball is ruled dead. If the rule had been correctly enforced, the Raiders would have been given a stop on 3rd and 4 and would have likely forced Cincinnati to settle for a field goal.

Instead, the Bengals were awarded a touchdown. They won by seven points.

Las Vegas graciously did not point fingers after the loss, with defensive end Maxx Crosby saying that in spite of the bad call, the team shook it off and kept playing. He went on to say that it was their inability to capitalize on opportunities that cost them the game.

Interim head coach Joe Bisaccia said he had "no issues with the officiating."

Even if the Raiders had no qualms with Saturday's referee crew, the NFL decided it would not stand for any further subpar officiating. Per ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, the crew from the Cincinnati-Las Vegas matchup, headed by official Jerome Boger, are not expected to find any work for the remainder of the NFL playoffs.

"One league source did not express surprise at Boger's performance; others around the league have commented on it during various points of the season..." Schefter said.

Now, the NFL is no paragon of accountability when it comes to its biggest stars, but this kind of accountability is something that should be emulated throughout the entire sports world. Athletes are held liable for their poor performances, so officials should be too.

It is time for the Big East Conference, a league as blighted with officiating issues as any, to hold their officials to a higher standard or to establish a standard that has not been consistently enforced. As of late, the issues have been tenfold.

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In a top-billed No. 23 Seton Hall vs. No. 7 Texas matchup on Dec. 9, there was a 10-minute delay with 3:40 remaining in a two-point game, a timeout in which the officials were gathered around a replay screen ensuring they had the correct amount of fouls for both sides.

The foul count was correct and the dragged-out timeout was for nothing.

More recently, after a Jan. 8 faceoff against a 16th ranked Providence squad, St. John's head coach Mike Anderson voiced his displeasure with the way the game was officiated, saying, "The thing I’m really disappointed in is the free throw discrepancy. That was awful because you can’t ever get a rhythm." Providence attempted 14 more free throws than St. John's did.

In the Johnnies' next game on Jan. 12, the officiating crew working a primetime game allowed a foul disparity of 26-13 in favor of UCONN. 3 players from the Red Storm fouled-out and the opposing Huskies to took home a 86-78 overtime victory.

The conference's officiating problems came to a head 3 days later in a No. 20 Seton Hall-Marquette stunner. Pirates-Golden Eagles matchups are no stranger to questionable game-calling, as their now infamous Big East Tournament Semi-Final game from 2019 featured 9 technical fouls, 49 total fouls, 85 free throws, 3 ejections, and 4 foul-outs in a down-to-the-wire finish, per the Asbury Park Press.

In a 72-72 game, Marquette had the ball with mere seconds to go when guard Greg Elliott attempted to draw a foul by jumping into Pirate guard Bryce Aiken. Aiken kept his arms up, took an elbow to the face, and got assessed a foul. Marquette went to the free throw line with 1.5 seconds left to all but secure the win.

Aiken is currently still out with a concussion he suffered on the game-deciding play.

On the in-bounds play after the free throws, Seton Hall's Myles Cale began running along the baseline after consulting with an official who told him he could. Another official called him for a travel after he began to move.

This was thankfully amended and no turnover was given, but this lack of communication and confusion within an officiating crew is dangerous and if allowed to continue, could seriously sway the outcome of many games as the season continues.

The one common denominator between almost all of these games that have been impacted by poor officiating this season; they were called by referee James Breeding.

Not only was Breeding one of the officials for Seton Hall-Texas, UCONN-St. John's, and Seton Hall-Marquette, but he was there for the notorious Big East Tournament Semi-Final from 2019, and made the foul call on Auburn's Samir Doughty in the waning moments of their Final Four matchup against the eventual champion Virginia Cavaliers in that same year.

Granted, the call on Doughty was the correct call, but Breeding is no stranger to drawing eyes away from the game and generating controversy around the way games are called.

As of late, however, his games have become sloppier and sloppier.

The Big East Conference has always prided itself on the top-tier basketball it produces year-in and year-out. The talent in the league can rival that of any other major conference in the country.

How can this product be expected to be at its highest quality if those that police the game do so with criminal inconsistency?

It is time for commissioner Val Ackerman and the Big East Conference to hold their officials accountable for their on-court actions rather than reward poor officiating performances with the ability to dictate the course of more meaningful games.

Brendan Balsamo can be reached at brendan.balsamo@student.shu.edu and on Twitter @brendanbalsamo.

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