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Beilein calls ‘hook and hold’ rule absurd; referee weighs in

EVANSTON, Ill — John Beilein became the latest college basketball coach to express his disapproval of the “hook and hold” rule.

Michigan center Jon Teske was called for the penalty in Tuesday’s game at Northwestern when officials determined, after a replay review, that Teske had clamped down on the arm of an opposing player while battling for a rebound.

“That’s the oddest thing,” Beilein said after the game. “The foul was on them and somehow we get a technical foul and they get the ball. I think we’ve got to continue to look at this and find out if it’s really worth it.”

Beilein argued the standard for such a call is too low.

“I look at it in slow motion and I still don’t know who hooked who. It’s problematic for the refs and I feel bad for them. … If it’s a violent ‘hook and hold’ we should be going to the monitor. But that today was absurd that they had to make that ruling — and it was the right ruling as the rule goes.”

The “hook and hold” first appeared in the 2017-18 NCAA men’s basketball rule book, among the “major officiating concerns.” In the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Purdue’s Isaac Haas got tangled with an opponent under the basket and fell to the floor, breaking his elbow in the process.

That was the impetus for the hook and hold going from a “concern” to a rule, enforceable by replay. It is defined as “illegal contact caused by a player hooking an opponent over or under the arm in an attempt to deceive the official into believing the contact was caused by the opponent.”

The penalty is a flagrant 1 foul, which counts as a personal foul and awards the opposing player two free throws and possession. If the contact “is not only excessive but also severe or extreme,” it is a flagrant 2 foul, which carries the same penalty as a flagrant 1, plus an ejection.

At the 19:07 mark of the second half on Tuesday, Teske boxed out Dererk Pardon in an attempt to grab an offensive rebound. Whistles blew and Pardon was called for a foul. Pardon immediately signaled that Teske had held him, and Northwestern coach Chris Collins made a similar gesture, yelling that it was a “hook and hold” and requesting a review.

The referees — Steve McJunkins, Kelly Pfeifer, and Lamont Simpson — huddled around a replay monitor and, 2:30 after play was stopped, assessed a flagrant 1 on Teske.

Mike Kitts, a long-time referee who is now the director of officiating for both the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the Horizon League, said the NCAA put a major emphasis on this play before the season and continues to remind referees about it.

“That’s what they kept harping on us back in October at the NCAA meetings: ‘Guys, somebody is going to get seriously hurt like the guy at Purdue. We’ve got to get this out of the game.'”

Kitts said that a player’s arm going underneath another player’s arm is not necessarily a “hook and hold” or even a foul. The clamping motion is what warrants the call. He said it is often a difficult maneuver to notice live and that’s why replay is so helpful.

Kitts said officials are being told, “If you have any thought that it warrants (a call), go and look at the monitor.” He said he has seen the play more frequently over the years and added that there are a few players that are “constantly” hooking and holding.

Tuesday’s infraction was Teske’s first of the season. Michigan had one other “hook and hold” foul this season — Zavier Simpson was whistled against Villanova while trying to gain possession near midcourt.

“I can see if there’s a hook and hold and somebody is thrown to the ground,” Beilein said. That was not the case with Teske (nor Simpson).

Kitts said a lot of coaches have called NCAA national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating J.D. Collins to complain, often saying referees have taken the rule to an “extreme.”

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo was frustrated with officiating after a game earlier this season, and Wisconsin’s players and coaches have voiced their concerns as well, to name two other examples in the Big Ten alone.  

“You’re trying to put something out of the game, and it’s a change, and nobody likes it,” Kitts said. “But they’re looking at the safety of the player more than anything else.”

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