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As Usual Ref Taking Too Much Heat For Questionable Call

Tim Higgins appeared to have screwed up a key call in the closing seconds of last night’s Alabama-Vanderbilt game.  With the Commodores leading by two with fewer than 10 seconds to play, Alabama’s JaMychal Green drove the baseline under Vandy’s basket.  There was contact between Green and VU’s Festus Ezeli.  Higgins blew his whistle, but not to call a foul.  Instead he ruled that Green had stepped on the baseline.

Replays suggest Green did not actually step on the baseline.  Therefore, Higgins cost Bama the game, right?


First, watch the video and you’ll probably agree that Green’s foot most likely did not touch the baseline (even though the line is partially obscured by Anthony Grant).

Bad call, it seems.  But here’s what the popular site had to say about the incident:

“… there’s no denying (Higgins) went out of his way to make an incorrect call that unquestionably determined the final outcome of the game.”


First, Higgins appeared to be in proper position to make the call.  From his angle — which isn’t the same angle we see from ESPN’s cameras, mind you — the side of Green’s shoe might have appeared to have hit the baseline.  We don’t know.  We weren’t in the middle of Memorial Gym trying to watch Green’s foot and contact on the play all in a split-second. 

What we do know is that if an official is in proper position and staring directly at a play when he blows his whistle, it’s more than a little silly to suggest that ref “went out of his way to make an incorrect call.”  Out of his way?  He blew his whistle when he thought he saw a player three feet from him step out of bounds.  Higgins wasn’t making the call from the opposite baseline.  He was right on the play.  Closer than ESPN’s camera.

Second, did Higgins call really “unquestionably determine the final outcome of the game?”  Uh, hell and no.  Alabama turned the ball over 12 times.  They missed four free throws.  They missed 13 out of 15 three-point attempts.  The Tide had plenty of chances to take control of the game before the six-second mark.

In addition, who is to say that Green was going to hit two foul shots if he had been sent to the line on an Ezeli foul?  He is a 75% shooter.  But let’s say for argument’s sake that he would have nailed them both to tie the game with six seconds to play.  So Vanderbilt was guaranteed not to score?

And let’s also toss in all of the other questionable calls from the night.  I’ve yet to see a block/charge call that didn’t leave one team cheering and the other team screaming in anger.  College basketball officials have to make a lot of judgement calls in each and every game… and they’re called judgment calls for a reason.  There were plenty of other 50/50 calls in last night’s game that also impacted the final score.

No one at is saying Higgins didn’t blow the call.  It appears to us that he did and he’ll have to answer to that when the SEC grades its officials.  But as usual, the “it cost us the game” nonsense is over-the-top.  Alabama lost last night.  Higgins’ call didn’t help their cause.  But the Tide had had 39 minutes and 54 seconds to go out of their own way to take matters out of Higgins’ hands.  They didn’t.  And that unquestionably determined the final outcome of the game.

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Caldwell Says He Has A Multi-Year Deal At Vandy, But Will That Matter?

From the time he was named interim head coach, Robbie Caldwell’s status has been the subject of great speculation in the Music City.  So Vanderbilt removed the coach’s “interim” tag just prior to the season and talked of handing Caldwell a fresh new contract. 

But many in Nashville still believed that Caldwell’s deal was something less than a guarantee of multiple years on the job.  Some believed it was more a reward for taking over in a pinch.  “Thanks for taking the job and here’s a payout for you at the end of the year if things don’t fly… and if they somehow do then we’ll keep you around.”

Caldwell told ESPN’s Joe Schad over the weekend that he “has been working under a multiyear contract.”  He also said that he is planning to coach the Commodores next season.

That puts things in a different light.  Or does it?  Does a multi-year deal really guarantee his return?  Remember, Caldwell and his staff are still in the midst of recruiting.  Announcing his departure now could hurt on that front… something Vandy can ill afford.

There might also be some evidence that Caldwell knows he’s still auditioning for the full-time job.  Just two weeks ago, Caldwell promoted Des Kitchings to offensive coordinator and demoted Jimmy Kiser.  If he really believed he had more than one year to patch up Vandy’s ship, would he have made such a drastic midseason move?  Most coaches would not.

The Commodores are currently 2-7 and just 1-5 in the SEC.  They have been decimated by injuries.  Example: With top running back Warren Norman already out of for the season, back-ups Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate both had to leave Saturday’s blow-out home loss to Florida with injuries. 

To be clear, Caldwell has caught zero breaks in his first year on the job.  It would be fair for Vanderbilt to give him another season.  But Commodore brass also must decide whether they believe their affable coach has what it takes to rebuild the school’s football program.  (Before you laugh at the word “rebuild,” remember that Vandy has been much more competitive in recent years under Bobby Johnson.)

If the powers-that-be in Nashville feel that Caldwell isn’t likely to improve the product in Vanderbilt Stadium then they need to make a move.  Multi-year contract or not. 

Caldwell was the obvious default choice when Johnson stepped down in July.  He was not someone VU hired and relocated to the West End.  If he had left another job, uprooted his family and moved to Nashville, then yes, Vandy should give him more time to build.  But that’s not what happened.  So if VU officials believe they need to move in another direction, a sizable buyout of his “multiyear contract” would be a fair “thank ya” after all.

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