Short NBA Refs? Expect More Foul Calls

Shortest crew calls an extra .147 fouls per game: study
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2014 2:48 PM CST
Short NBA Refs? Expect More Foul Calls
Shorter NBA referee crews make more foul calls, a study finds.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

NBA players be warned: If you've got a team of referees on the short side, you may want to keep your play extra clean. A study finds that shorter groups of refs are more likely to call fouls than are their taller counterparts, the Wall Street Journal reports. Researchers examined 4,463 games between 2008 and 2012, Deadspin reports. They divided refs into three groups: those under six feet tall, those between six feet and six-foot-three, and those taller than that. The investigators found that the under-six-foot group called .147 more fouls per game than did the tallest group.

That's 3.6% more fouls than the NBA average, the Journal adds. Still, as Deadspin notes, it's not a huge effect: "An average player would have around one more foul every 480 minutes" given a short crew. Researchers offer two possible explanations for their findings: Maybe shorter refs actually see more of what's going on between players, and they make their calls accordingly. Or maybe the refs are exhibiting "aggressive, controlling behavior via the Napoleon complex." But the NBA isn't particularly moved by the findings, which, the league says, "are based on limited information about the average heights of individuals in crews, seemingly arbitrary height groups, and no information about the actual caller." (As for that supposed complex, researchers this year suggested "short man syndrome" does exist.)

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