- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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.

So unnecessary.

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, whose Tar Heels were involved in the most prominent of several timing issues during the first week of March Madness.

Thad Matta, coach of overall top seed Ohio State, was even more confused.

“We use it in the Big Ten, so I’m good with it,” he said Tuesday. “Matter of fact, when we talked about it in the Big Ten meetings, we said, ‘Let’s do what they do in the NCAA tournament.’”

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

In a sense, it’s like using a modern timing system to determine how fast Usain Bolt runs or Michael Phelps swims until they get to the Olympics, then breaking out the stopwatches to figure out who gets the gold medal.

“This is 2011,” said Nelson Keller, who runs the clock merely as a backup for women’s games at North Carolina and the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. “It’s crazy not to use the technology that’s available.”

That was never more apparent than last week when several games went down to the wire with the clock being kept by a timekeeper sitting courtside instead of being linked to Costabile’s system, which shuts it down automatically when an official blows the whistle.

The most disputed game 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 of bounds with at least 1.1 seconds to go.

The officials looked at the video and did some frontier justice, 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.

“Any time you are talking about time on the clock, I think it’s important that you get it right,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Whatever you have to do to make sure that you get it right, I think you need to do.”

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