Big Dance ignores top technology

This was a familiar scene during the first week of the NCAA Tournament: Officials huddled around the scorer's table, looking over replays to determine just how much time should be on the clock.


The NCAA -- unlike the NBA, the Olympics, all major conferences and even some high schools -- doesn't use an automatic timing system for its signature event.

It's an odd situation that caught plenty of prominent coaches off guard when told this week that game clocks in the men's and women's tournaments are not linked to a well-known device known as Precision Time Systems, which was invented nearly two decades ago by former NBA and college referee Michael Costabile.

"To be honest with you, I didn't even realize that they weren't using it during the tournament," said North Carolina's Roy Williams.

The automatic system is widely used during the preseason, regular season and conference tournaments, but is ignored by the NCAA for the biggest games of the year.

The most disputed game this past week was North Carolina's 86-83 victory over Washington. The ball went out of bounds off a Tar Heels player with a half-second showing on the clock. Replays showed the ball went out with at least 1.1 seconds to go.

The officials looked at the video, determining the time on the board was right when factoring in the lag time between an official blowing his whistle and the timekeeper stopping the clock.

If Precision Time had been used, it wouldn't have been an issue.

Costabile's system uses wireless technology to sync the whistles to a computer base station that is tied in to the clock. Whenever an official blows his whistle, the clock stops.

Costabile said his system is used by more than 250 NCAA Division I schools, with every BCS conference adopting it league-wide. And the NBA has used it since 1998.

Georgia found out how accurate the system is during the SEC Tournament.

Dustin Ware banked in a game-winning 3-pointer, but it didn't count because coach Mark Fox had called a timeout. The clock showed only 0.8 seconds remaining, so Fox went over to the scorer's table to lobby for more time. He didn't have a case. The Precision Time computer showed exactly when Gary Maxwell blew his whistle.

"The referee went to the monitor and obviously got it right," Fox said.

Alabama won the game in overtime.

Today's games

- 7:15 p.m.-- San Diego St. vs. Connecticut (CBS-Ch. 12)

- 7:27-- Florida vs. BYU (TBS)

- 9:45-- Duke vs. Arizona (CBS-Ch. 12)

- 9:57-- Wisconsin vs. Butler (TBS)