Home Officiating Bias

Submitted by TheGhostofYost on January 15th, 2013 at 8:37 PM

Officials, particularly in college basketball, favor the home teams, as well as teams that are trailing by a large margin.  This has been well-documented not only by the average fan who has watched more than 3 conference road games, but also by people who actually study this stuff (Boyko 2007, Pierce 2009, AP 2009).  Perhaps especially noteworthy was the Kelley School of Business 2009 study, which concluded that home teams should generally play more physcal, aggressive basketball to take full advatage of the bias.  The question is, what, if anything can be done to combat this?  Is home-court bias just part of the game?  Do you want it to be?  Thought I would spark a bit of discussion of a slow night...



January 15th, 2013 at 9:21 PM ^

I recall reading that the reason the officiating often goes in favor of the home team is because the officials (mostly subconsciously) are afraid of angering the crowd and having thousands of people boo them.  Been shown with soccer fields where the crowd is closer to the field and therefor louder to those on the field, that the officiating is more in favor of the home team.  Hard to fix unless you make them deaf.

Maison Bleue

January 18th, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

Hearing is too important a sense to officiating to take away. It would help with crowd noise, but may end up taking away from slap fouls. Plus you wouldn't hear other officials whistles. Which on one hand could make for some comically hilarious moments, but would ultimately be bad and could be somewhat dangerous. So, IMO putting earplugs on would only solve one problem while creating multiple others. The only solution to this problem is prepare for it. You know it's going to happen, so practice like it is going to happen. Then you won't be surprised when it does.

Ball Hawk

January 15th, 2013 at 9:28 PM ^

I did notice though that when a bad call was made in favor of the other team, there seems to be a make up call to even it out. I noticed this a lot this last game we played. They flop to the floor by hardaway when that guy from Ohio swung his arms with the ball and Hardaway pretended like he got an elbow to the face. Then the embarrassing part was when they reviewed it in slow motion to see if the elbow was intentional only to see that he flopped.


January 15th, 2013 at 9:48 PM ^

another thing that is frustrating is the inconsistency of the charge vs block call, hardly ever will they call more than one or two charges in a row no matter what, especially when they go against the home


January 15th, 2013 at 10:11 PM ^

The game as a whole has gone down hill. They have adjusted the rules for supposed increase in "speed" which simply means lack on fundamentals. Everyone carries the ball and travels.

My huge issue is what I call anticipation fouls or the let it go until the player misses the dunk/lay up and then call the foul 5-10 seconds after it occurred.

To make the game more entertaining they allow a modified street ball to be played which makes officiating harder. Fouls are no longer cut and dry because due to TV we can't have star players fouling out.


January 15th, 2013 at 11:38 PM ^

Some won't agree and call this "overrated" because you probably don't have data to back up the claims but I see a lot of truth to your points.  I'm not sure about the game going "downhill" per se but worded another way I'd probably agree.

Roy G. Biv

January 15th, 2013 at 10:14 PM ^

In a general, conference-wide sense I think officiating hurts the B1G in the post-season.  In the ACC they certainly wouldn't allow Aaron Craft to put a saddle on opposing PGs like the B1G does.  While OSU played good D in the game, ACC refs calling OSU vs. whomever at a neutral site in the Dance will have a whistle-fest with the hand-checks, reaches, on-the-ball bumps and off-the-ball muggings.  Being acclimated to this style of play can bite B1G teams in the ass when they have to deviate from the style they've played the entire conference season.  I know numerous caveats apply to this theory but I think it definitely plays a role in the post-season.


January 15th, 2013 at 10:28 PM ^

I'm absolutely sick of the overwhelming favoritism officials give the home team, particularly in the B1G.  The players should dictate who wins and losses, not the officials.  The officiating in Sundays game was clearly in favor of ohio.  The amount of non calls and inconsistency with blocking/charging calls was maddening.  This was also evident in Michigan's win at home against ohio last year.  If that game was called evenly I don't think Michigan wins.  It makes conference play an absolute farce.

I’ve been saying this for years, I’m glad someone finally made a post about it.



January 15th, 2013 at 11:37 PM ^

Love how this thread and it's premise (of which I pretty much agree with) happens on the night the number 2 team in the country loses at home.  Irony or Alanis Morrissette Irony?!


January 15th, 2013 at 11:42 PM ^

When we beat state by one last year there was at least 8 points state got screwed out of and even though we won it effected how I felt. 

Then on sunday OSU gets handed the game at the end and I get pissed.

Just call it fair all around.



January 16th, 2013 at 12:27 AM ^

I'd counter with, one very well referee'd game is the exception, not the norm.  Those guys did a great job of ignoring the cheering and booing of the Indiana faithful and just calling what they see.  Most refs these days are more human in their psychology and it seems they let the cheers/jeers and emotion "get to them".


January 16th, 2013 at 2:58 AM ^

The finest home cooking in my 35 years of following basketball:

Indiana University during the Bobby Knight years.

Boston Celtics during the Larry Bird years.

Duke throughout the Coach Eyechart reign.

In general though, home cooking is worth I'd say an average of about 8 points a game for the home team in college basketball.  The Ohio State game was a perfect example, where early attempted charges all went OSU's way as either a blocking foul against a UM player, or a charge by a UM player against a sliding OSU defender.

This is honestly the single reason why, as exciting as basketball is, it will always be #2 in my book behind football.  I just flat out detest how much of the game gets controlled by the poetic license of referees making endless marginal calls to (a) favor the home team, and (b) favor the team getting blown out to make the game respectable.

No solution to it really, unless basketball can find a way to rework the charge call, which is the single biggest culprit of this bias.


January 16th, 2013 at 7:45 AM ^

IMO the reason all of the things pointed out in this thread happen is fairly simple at most elemental level.  Referees are humans and all humans would rather be "liked" than disliked.  No one will ever convince me that refs wouldnt rather, if given the choice, be cheered rather than booed and the very definition of "50-50" calls means there's no definitively right way to call it.  So the referee has a choice to make literally in his subconscience, in the nanosecond after he sees somethng that warrants a wistle.  Do I want to be cheered or booed here?  And not surprisingly the vast majority of referees (Joey Crawford notwithstanding) would rather be cheered.

Also I think Ghost of Yost makes an excellent suggestion on having the refs wear some form of noise-deadening device.  I really wonder if they couldnt get the sensory input from the crowd if they would still make the calls the way they do.  I honestly think they would resist this however as it would prove fairly quickly that the home team bias is real and exists and none of them ever wish to admidt to this.

If you remember (and I put the NBA and NCAA in the same bucket) a few years ago when Mark Cuban started charting calls when the same teams played with the same officiating crews to see if the calls varied from home to away and the league went nuts.  Nobody wants this unpleasant reality to become validated because if it was then leagues, both college and professional, would be foreced to actually do something about it.


January 16th, 2013 at 8:23 AM ^

Just like in football there should be no conference ref affiliation.  Either completely governed by the NCAA or some other 3rd party outfit that also determines post season seedings based on actual in season performance.