Anti-Duke Manifesto Chapter 4


“The Anti-Duke Manifesto” was written by Brian Allen, a graduate of both UNC and Duke Law. He has some very interesting points to make about Duke and why people hate the basketball program so very much, it’s a very long read but one that has become the Duke Hater’s bible.  I’ve decided to run this amazing manifesto in chapters.  Welcome to Chapter 4.  Enjoy!

– Chapter Four — Bias of Game Officials

The media bias, while annoying to be sure, pales in comparison, and significance, to that of the game’s officials. For the sake of clarity, I do not, nor have I ever, contended that there is some deliberate conspiracy at work here. There is, however, an undeniable bias in favor of Duke amongst the media and the NCAA. This bias is perpetuated and exacerbated by the media and combines with Mike Krzyzewskis uncontrolled bullying of game officials to generate truly insane consequences.

A. Mind-boggling free throw disparities.

By now, most have heard how Duke’s basketball team has enjoyed seasons where its players convert more free throws than their opponents attempt. Admittedly, this fact, standing alone, is not necessarily cause for criticism, as smaller and lesser talented teams are more likely to foul their bigger, quicker, more talented adversaries.

In Duke’s case, however, the actual numbers, when viewed in appropriate context, are staggering. In 2000-01, the last championship season, Duke actually attempted 1,002 free throws, compared to its opponents’ 701 attempts. Think about that statistic for a moment – over one thousand free throws. During that season, Duke players were assessed with 659 fouls; the opposition, 848. The year before, Duke converted on 618 free throws, 81 more than its opponents attempted. (For the doubting reader, the Duke Basketball Report website published all of these season statistics in 2005 though, for some reason, the statistics were removed after the first dissemination of this writing.)

Certainly, these statistics are themselves absurd, but the issue becomes inexplicable when one considers the team’s traditionally aggressive approach to the game. Krzyzewski, remember, shuns the zone defense, insisting instead that his players confront even superior athletes with his signature, hard-nosed man-to-man. By its nature, man-to-man is a more physical defensive style, one that Duke players execute with bloodhound intensity. Usually, man-to-man defense generates a higher foul count than the more passive zone alternatives, but somehow not for Duke. Instead, Duke players routinely waltz to the charity stripe at twice the rate of their opponents, all while hacking, slapping, and hand-checking opponents up and down the court.

Remember too that Duke regularly leads the conference in steals and blocked shots – other telltale signs of aggressive play – and still enjoys prodigious advantages in foul tallies. Going back to the title year, for example, Duke had 411 steals compared to its opponents’ 282; Duke blocked 196 shots, its opponents, 117. Inside players, meanwhile, feast off of a constant barrage of moving picks and not-so subtle pushes. Danny Ferry, for example, was allowed to shove his way to better collegiate rebound stats than any number of superior inside players who have subsequently, in pro ball, easily exposed his dearth of true skills.

The foul disparities become more baffling still, when one considers Duke’s prevailing offensive approach. In recent years, Duke has emphasized the three point shot. For roughly the past five seasons, the offensive philosophy reminds one of the 1980s Loyola-Maramount squads as Duke players repeatedly jack up one long-range shot after another. Usually, such a team approach produces low foul counts for the opposition, as outside shooters are rarely fouled. Nevertheless, Duke’s free throw advantage continues unabated, even as JJ Redick runs and guns in a fashion that would make Rick Pitino proud.

Some suggest that the foul disparities can be explained by late game intentional fouls committed when trailing opponents seek to stop the clock during the closing minutes of a game. Vitale offered this excuse up as he discussed Duke throughout this years Gonzaga-Stanford game. But that justification actually died with the advent of the 35 second shot clock. In the 1970s and early 80s, large foul disparities were commonplace as teams frequently held the ball for the final several minutes of a game. Dean Smiths Four Corners offense was the classic example there. But all of this came to a stop with the shot clock. Now, it is rare for a team to intentionally foul more than three or for times for clock stopping purposes. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a game where the last four to five minutes were nothing but free throws? When Duke lost its senior night game to UNC, the team committed only three intentional fouls, (excluding Dockerys unpenalized shove to Hansbroughs face). By offering this obsolete excuse, Duke supporters actually only explain why Dean Smith enjoyed free throw advantages. It says nothing for why Duke enjoys its astounding advantage at the line today.

Others have attempted to downplay the disparities by pointing to other programs, such as UConn and UNC, that traditionally enjoy free throw advantages. This excuse too is specious. As previously acknowledged, superior teams do enjoy free throw advantages. Always have. That is not unusual for the reasons stated earlier. But lets try it again: What IS unusual is for a team (1) to play NOTHING but chest-to-chest, man-to-man defense, complete with constant hand-checking, (2) to lead the conference in steals and blocks, (3) to rely largely on a perimeter based offense, (4) to deliberately initiate contact with opposing players in an effort to draw offensive foul calls, which are always close and subjective in nature, (5) to rely on constant interior and perimeter screens in order to free its only two reliable scorers, (6) to have one of the most verbally abusive coaches in the country, and STILL enjoy foul discrepancies of this magnitude. This combination is unprecedented in the history of college basketball.

Good examples of the Duke bias came in late January. Duke struggled mightily in its game against newly added ACC foe Boston College before eventually winning by two. The final foul shot tally: Duke 37, BC 13. Thats right, 13 free throws for a team that confronted an aggressive man-to-man defense, a flurry of moving picks, and Shelden Williams signature elbows the entire game. The best part of the game came at about the four minute mark when a referee whistled an extremely controversial fifth foul on BCs pre-season All-American Craig Smith. Incredibly, before receiving any notification from the scorers table, the same ref sprinted to the BC bench and shouted, ‘Thats five! Thats five!’ One must ask if there is any legitimate reason why a floor referee should know an individual players foul tally and react with such excitement over a star players disqualification. By the way, that same All-American player, in thirty-five minutes of action, received zero (0) free throw attempts of his own.

As bad as the Boston College game was, the referees outdid themselves in Dukes next game against Florida State. In order to eke out this two point overtime victory, Duke needed every one of its 43 free throw attempts. FSU, meanwhile, saw a total of 11 free throws in 45 minutes of play. The refs finest moment came in the second half when Shelden Williams received a hard foul as he went up for a dunk. Williams jumped off of the floor and shoved Alexander Johnson in retaliation. Johnson simply raised his arms, hands open, in response. The referee, having already called an intentional foul on Johnson, responded to Williams shove by immediately pointing to both players.

Thats right, a double technical foul was called because of Shelden Williams decision to shove an opponent during a dead ball. In this way, Johnson received two fouls on one play. This ran his game total to five, resulting in his immediate disqualification. To make matters worse, this double technical came after the referees huddled and conferred at length after the play. Again, I won’t use the word ‘conspiracy,’ but it sure seemed suggestive to me. Taking us back full-circle to the media bias, the next morning Greensboro News & Record writer Rob Daniels actually wrote the following about the botched double technical, ‘FSU probably got the better end of the deal.’ His reasoning was that the technical resulted in Williams fourth personal foul, which forced him to sit out a total of three minutes for the entire game. Somehow, this was more damaging than fouling out the opposing teams big man for absolutely no valid reason. The call was so egregious that the team of referees was suspended for one game. Somehow, this response did not exactly right the wrong for the Seminoles. But, who knows, perhaps Coach K will petition the NCAA to remove the win from his record and move it to FSUs column where it belongs.

And, please, dont think the BC and FSU games were anomalies. This kind on nonsense happens all of the time for Duke. In their nail biter against Georgia Tech, Duke enjoyed a 25-10 free throw advantage, (a stat that game announcer Mike Patrick surprisingly overlooked). In other games this season Duke outdid Temple 39 10 at the line. Duke passed Valparaiso in free throw attempts to the tune of 36-15. Against Miami, the advantage was 33-16. Against Texas, in a match-up of the number one and two ranked teams, Duke doubled the Longhorns in attempts at the line. Same for Drexel, Memphis, and Pennsylvania. My favorite was the Boston University game, where the free throw attempts were 26-4.

Bjorn Borg, the 70s Swedish tennis phenom who won five consecutive Wimbledon titles, was perhaps best known for his incredibly cool composure on the court. The model of sportsmanship, Borg never questioned calls or offered so much as a troubled facial expression. In a sport where questionable calls are frequent, it was quite an accomplishment, particularly as he confronted the short-fused likes of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Once asked to explain his secret to sportsmanship,

Borg responded that he believes officials make bad calls; however, they usually even out over the course of a match. Can anyone seriously argue that foul disparities even out over the course of a Duke game, much less a season? Stone cold statistics say otherwise. Nevertheless, Times writer Michael Sokolove says that it ’seems far-fetched’ to claim that Krzyzewskis success is largely due to one-sided officiating. Yes, Mr. Sokolove, you are correct; as the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

B. The Duke Flop.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the disparity in foul totals is the outrageous manner in which game officials apply the ever-subjective offensive foul rule. You know the scenario: An opposing player blows by a slower Duke defender while being closely guarded thirty feet from the basket. As the player races to the hoop for a lay-up, another Duke player jumps into his path, often while the offensive player is in the air, deliberately causing a dangerous collision near the basket. The late arriving defender falls over backward, arms flailing, with a melodramatic shriek. As sure as the sun sets in the West, one of the three game referees will run to the scene, often from far out of position, hand clasped behind his head, whistle sounding loudly, all with Krzyzewski’s pumping fist signaling his approval in the background. Of course, when the opposition attempts to return the favor, the call is just as surely a block or, at best, a no call.

This defensive ‘play’ is in all ways analogous to a baseball player stepping in front of a pitch in a deliberate effort to get a free pass to first base by being plunked. The only difference is that the basketball flop gives the added bonus of bringing an opposing player 1/5 of the way to disqualification.

While many times the Duke player accomplishes his goal of creating a violent collision, any given game brings several additional defensive ‘plays’ in which a Duke defender drops to the floor when his opponent so much as breathes on him. The Duke team is so thoroughly trained to resort to this regularly rewarded tactic that it is common so see them fall anywhere on the court – near the basket, at mid-court, in the backcourt, sometimes while the offensive player is simply dribbling laterally, making no effort to move towards the basket. In 2005, during the closing seconds of its last loss to Maryland, for instance, a Duke defender actually flopped beneath Maryland’s defensive goal on an inbound play.

Taking the tradition to new levels, JJ Redick recently debuted a new version: the offensive flop. It was unveiled early in this seasons first UNC game as JJ went up for a mid-range jumpshot, which he made. After releasing the ball, JJ jerked his body as if overtaken by a violent seizure and plopped loudly onto the floor. Replays showed no contact, other than perhaps a grazing of the defenders leg, which JJ initiated as he straddled his legs in an effort to ‘draw the foul.’ Again, in his home loss of senior night, JJ fell to the floor for no apparent reason after launching a baseline three early in the game. Fortunately, the referees did not take the bait on either occasion, but, rest assured, future Dukies will perfect the ploy with greater results.

This patented ‘Duke flop’ is without doubt the most maddening innovation of the Coach K era, (with his players’ tendency to slap the floor at midcourt in a purported show of defensive solidarity running a close second). Over the course of an average game, the Duke opponent sees five to six baskets, or ten to twelve points (fifteen to eighteen if we count the three-point play that should have resulted), erased by this grossly one-sided call. Duke, meanwhile, receives additional five to six free throws as opponents are regularly whistled for blocks. Year after year, legendary athletes, from Jordan to Bias to Duncan to Carter, are unfairly handicapped by the spectrum of inferior Duke players jumping into their paths and flopping backwards, even if contact is avoided. Indeed, it is not unusual for slow-motion replays to show Duke defenders beginning their staged falls, before, occasionally in the total absence of, actual contact.

Much to the chagrin of flop-leader Shane Battier, it was because of this infuriating nonsense that the NBA actually amended its rules to prohibit offensive fouls from being called as the result of charges within five feet of the basket. And for great reason: games should not turn on the basis of inferior athletes deliberately diving into an opposing player’s path in order to manufacture an offensive foul call. This is not basketball. It breaks the flow of any game, angers fans, and endangers athletes. In a broader sense, it perverts the game by shaving points from opposing teams’ scores while simultaneously saddling their players with fouls that should never be charged.

The biggest absurdity is that this precise tactic is supposed to be a ‘point of emphasis’ for NCAA officials. Specifically, point of emphasis no. 2, taken directly from the NCAA rulebook for 2003-04, reads as follows:

The committee is also concerned with the defensive player who fails to attain legal guarding position and, consequently, impedes or blocks the progress of an offensive player going to the basket. When a defensive player attempts to draw a charge, but establishes defensive position late, he shall be penalized for a block.

Suffice it to say, most officials missed this instruction.

At its basic core, the Duke flop is simply a close cousin of a cheap, dirty play to which some third rate teams once resorted in the final seconds of lost games. Usually reserved for high school games played before less sophisticated referees, some of us saw it in the 1985 title game as Villanova was about to upset Georgetown. After a timeout, with only seconds remaining, the players returned to the floor. As the referee handed the ball over to be inbounded, a Georgetown player suddenly wrapped both arms around his opponent and fell over backwards, pulling the Villanova player on top of him. The hope was for a referee to miss the takedown, yet call a foul after hearing the players thump the floor and seeing the Nova player atop of the Georgetown player. Billy Packer commented on the ruse during a replay and put it well by saying, ‘Its really just a dirty play. Its one thing to play hard. Its another thing to play dirty.’

Isnt the Duke flop the same play in principle and spirit? Directly initiating a collision with an opponent by jumping into his path and initiating contact against the opponents will? As Packer stated well, playing hard is one thing and theres no question that Duke players do play hard but playing dirty is quite another. The Duke flop is, plain and simple, a dirty play for which Duke is rightly despised.

C. The Duke Hand-Check.

Another Duke trademark is the ability of its players, primarily its guards, to hand-check opponents as they approach their offensive goal. Again, we see it on virtually every possession: the opposing team brings the ball front court. Immediately, Dukes guards ‘man up’ to their opponents with their legs spread widely and a rigid arm thrust into the opponents hip or gut. It is more of a stiff-arm than a hand-check, and it is vital to the aggressive man-to-man defensive scheme. Without it, the opposing player would easily blow by the Duke defender. By using this solid hand-check, Paulus, Dockery, and Redick buy that additional second needed to react to a quick move and to shift into flop position.

Here is a newsflash: The hand-check is illegal. And yet it is never called against Duke. This particular free pass is quite maddening given that it is another purported ‘point of emphasis’ for the officials. Remember the point of emphasis quoted above? The sentence that precedes it is the following: ‘The officials focus must continue to remain on eliminating illegal contact and rough play in the low post, off the ball, in cutting and screening situations, and during hand-checking anywhere on the court.’

So how on earth does Duke get away with this? Clearly, there is no answer.

D. The Duke ‘No Call.’

Another reason behind the foul disparities is the infamous frequency with which officials refuse to whistle Duke players for fouls, despite their trademark aggressive style of play. During the mid-1980’s, an ACC coach anonymously explained Duke’s defensive philosophy as follows: all five defensive players foul all five opposing offensive players at the same time, leaving officials too confused and stunned to respond. Since then, Duke’s impunity has evolved to the point where the game’s rules simply do not apply to the school. Referees absolutely refuse to blow the whistle when Sean Dockery and Redick push off defenders with their left hands; Duke guards are never penalized for extending their arms laterally to obstruct opposing players’ movements; moving interior screens are simply expected; Shelden Williams swings his elbows into opposing player’s faces throughout games in which he collects a total of 3 personal fouls, (none as a result of his headhunting); Coach K screams himself hoarse with profanity with never a technical called. Bench players accost opposing coaches or game referees no problem.

And who could forget last year’s first UNC-Duke game where K presumptuously ambled onto the court, in the middle of play, to talk strategy with Redick. As Billy Packer himself noted, it was indisputable grounds for a technical foul, but the refs never thought of blowing the whistle.

Some believe this seasons BC game, at least, can be explained as an attempt by the referees to introduce a new ACC member to the realities of ACC officiating. There may be something to this theory, as the officials took a similar approach in welcoming Virginia Tech to the league last season during the first of the Duke VPI games. Played at Duke, the game began with Shelden Williams driving his elbow at freshman center Deron Washington’s head, causing him to hit the deck. No foul was called, Williams scored an uncontested first two points of the game, and the tone was set. Throughout the game, Williams pushed, elbowed, and bullied his way through VT’s younger frontcourt players, with officials doing nothing. In the same game, however, the officials whistled an astounding thirty-four team fouls on Virginia Tech, many of which would have gone uncalled in a church league game. An amazing twenty-two fouls — nearly enough to foul out four players — were called in the first half alone. Not surprisingly, Duke won the game by 35 points, 30 of which were scored from the foul line. In an interesting contrast, when the same two teams met only weeks later in Blacksburg, the team foul tallies were essentially even. The result? A Virginia Tech win, (after which JJ Redick’s father complained publicly about the student body’s poor sportsmanship.)

To make matters worse, during the first game, the Duke students began chanting, ‘Please stop fouling,’ as if Tech was attempting to have its entire team disqualified. As the son of a V.M.I. graduate, I have no love for Virginia Tech, but could there be a greater example of the absurd lengths to which officials go with their favoritism?

This season has brought a new round of truly amazing no-calls and blown calls. Take this years Virginia game, which immediately preceded the infamous BC officiating fiasco. JJ Redick somehow was awarded three points on the games first basket even though both feet were fully inside the three point arc. The missed call was so bad that even Mike Patrick expressed surprise. In the home loss on senior night, JJ was given three points on two shots where a foot clearly straddled the arc one of which even Vitale conceded. In the game played at Virginia Tech, Redick, during a baseline drive, elbowed his defender in the groin, causing him to grab his crotch and drop out of bounds. Not surprisingly, Redick scored. On replays, the most glaring part of the play was the defenders reaction to having his bell rung. Nevertheless, Dick Vitales only remarks were to express awe at JJs head fake, ball fake, and general basketball genius.

Later this same season, against Temple, a clear push-off by Redick was similarly ignored. During the 2002-03 season, Dahntay Jones whipped Raymond Felton with an elbow to the face, which opened a frightening laceration and caused Felton to immediately drop as if shot. Again no foul was called; however, the officials did order Felton out of the game until the Carolina cornermen stopped the bleeding.

And what better example could there be than the Laettner foot stomp? During the 1992 Regional Final against Kentucky, Laettner stomps on the chest of a fallen Wildcat. He is given a T, but allowed to continue on and, ultimately, to hit the game winner that CBS cannot show enough. Can you imagine what would have happened if the tables had been turned and a Duke player had been kicked? No need to. We found out this year when Virginia Techs Deron Washington was immediately ejected after he ‘kicked’ Lee Melchionni while both players were on the floor. It wasnt a kick, and certainly wasnt a stomp. But it was grounds for immediate expulsion. And yet, only weeks later, the referees did nothing in response to Sean Dockerys decision to shove Tyler Hansbrough in the face during a deadball, even as it happened directly in front of an official.

E. K’s Career Long Free Pass.

Finally, the foul tallies are beyond defense when one considers the number of technical fouls that should be called on the head coach himself in every game. Again, the point is beyond dispute. Game after game, K drops the ‘f-bomb’ with the frequency of a drunk sailor, along with all the other traditional profanities. And when was his last technical foul?

Big deal you say? According to the NCAA points of emphasis it is supposed to be. ‘Coaches who engage in the following actions violate the bench decorum rules and shall be assessed a direct technical foul:

Directing personal, vulgar or profane remarks or gestures toward an official; Voicing displeasure about officiating through continuous verbal remarks; Leaving the coaching box for an unauthorized reason.

Does any of that sound familiar?