Break out the cotton candy, collect the Bengal tigers and get your clown face on, because there's a circus coming to your local gym.
Yeah, Illinois high school basketball coaches better couch their words and count their steps this season, because officials are watching them -- and the IHSA is watching officials.
It's all an overreaction by the IHSA to the Class 2A championship game last March, which featured several incidents that have prompted a crackdown on coaches, players and officials already noticeable in games played this week.
In a nutshell, that title game contained physical play, some yapping, technicals, contact with an official, an ejection and a profanity-laced tirade from a coach, leading Seton Academy to depart Carver Arena in Peoria having told the IHSA -- and winner Harrisburg -- to keep the runner-up trophy and insert it where appropriate.
There certainly was some inappropriate behavior that day by some individuals, but now the entire state is under review.
I see about 40 high school sporting events a year and haven't witnessed anything to suggest this is necessary. As proportional responses go, this seems a nuclear answer to a squirt gun question.
Coaches are upset, players are confused and officials are worried. I know this because I've been given memos and pages filled with rules by all of the above.
In fairness to the IHSA, it says most of the rules have been in place for a long time but now will be enforced because, states a memo, "When coaches and officials fail to understand the important role they both play in ensuring a high school basketball game is played in a sporting manner, situations like those that happened during last season's boys' Class 2A championship game occur."
Hey, I understand the IHSA doesn't like what happened in that game. No one approves of that conduct, especially at the prep level, but it's not like you see that stuff in every game.
Still, refs are concerned that if they don't officiate by the letter of the law, they will not advance up the ladder, which means more fouls, technicals, ejections and slower games.
So refs will be watching coaches to see if the stay in their box. We know this because the memo to coaches states "Zero Tolerance" in quote marks, which means they really, really mean it. That's what quote marks mean. Without the quote marks, it's not as serious, though the quote is a bit confusing because no one is actually quoted.
But I digress. The following graph was in boldface type and underlined: "Be aware of where you are at all times. You MUST be in the box when you communicate with an official, request a time out, check on a player on the bench, get a drink of water or anything else while the game is in progress. Timeouts and intermissions between quarters are the only times you are allowed to be out of the box, and this must NEVER be to communicate with an official.''
Now, I don't know about you, but bold type and capital letters scare me, ESPECIALLY WHEN UNDERLINED!!!
So the coach has a 14-foot dog run and can't leave it for any reason, whether stricken with stomach flu or to check on an injured player, for whom he or she is ultimately responsible. This is causing genuine consternation for coaches who really believe they are the educator charged with teaching and caring for the student at all times.
So the kid is down on the floor, bleeding with a broken nose, and if the coach instinctively rushes to assess the player, that's a technical.
States a memo: "Officials are being instructed to assess a technical foul WITHOUT WARNING to head coaches who violate this rule. This includes leaving the box for ANY REASON other than to go to the table to request that the game be stopped for a conference concerning a correctable error."
At the lower levels, where there isn't a trainer at every game, the injured child is on his own, apparently. As for fouls, at the lower levels officials looking to move up will be calling everything, so freshman coaches better have deep benches and no dinner with family scheduled for after the game.
Oh yeah, the fouls.
According to another memo, "Officials MUST understand that ANY CONTACT THAT IS INITIATED BY THE DEFENSE ON THE PLAYER WITH THE BALL IS A FOUL. A 'HOT STOVE TOUCH' IS A FOUL. And YES, this also applies in the post. When the ball comes into the post, all defensive contact should come off."
I don't know if the memo's author has anger issues, but it seems like he or she is YELLING A LOT!!!
Anyway, defensive players can't hand check or "hot stove touch." Period. Foul every time. In the post, good luck fighting for position.
Look, most of this isn't new, and the IHSA will remind you of that when you ask, but it also admits this renewed push is a direct result of one game played in March.
The state wants less physicality and more finesse, so you can't bump a cutter while defending the screen, which means you might see a lot more zone and a lot less defense.
Some coaches in the Chicago area believe this carries a downstate bias, which -- allegedly -- doesn't care for the way basketball is played up here. Either way, for teams with little chance to win without getting physical -- teams lacking height or talent -- it means they now have no chance to win.
Coaches and officials are nervous because they know THEY ARE BEING WATCHED!!!
Fouls will increase, games will be longer and coaches will be frustrated, while players must learn new systems and adjust to old rules being called by the book.
AND THEY HAVE HAD TWO WEEKS OF PRACTICE TO FIGURE IT OUT!!! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!!!
I wanted to underline that last sentence and put it in bold, but it seemed like a waste of ink.
On the other hand, I have a newfound love of EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.