Controversial Call That Cost Syracuse A Win Against Duke Exposed A Serious Flaw In New Rule

Syracuse CJ Fair

The much anticipated Duke-Syracuse college basketball game ended in stunning fashion when a potential game-tying shot by Syracuse was waved off, leading to Jim Boeheim’s ejection.

While the game will be best remembered for Boeheim’s actions (see below), the foul has sparked plenty of debate and shows how a new rule has only added to the confusion of block/charge calls in college basketball.

Here is the new rule:

A defender must establish legal guarding position before the airborne shooter begins his upward motion to shoot or pass.

Previously, the defender only had to establish his position prior to the shooter leaving the floor. According to the NCAA, the intention of the new rule is to “provide for more offensive freedom” and “provide clarity to make this call more consistently.” In theory the shooter could be in his “upward motion” before he leaves the ground.

Unfortunately, the wording in the new rule is less clearly defined.

Notice that the defender must establish his position before the shooter begins his upward motion, and not necessarily when the shooter begins to leave the ground. Depending on your point of view, those two rules do not mean the same thing.

Here is the play in question.


When does Fair begin his upward motion? If we are going to say it is when he actually starts moving up, then the defender appears to have already established his position. In the above clip, Fair doesn’t actually start moving up until just prior to contact*.

Syracuse Duke Basketball

However, you can also make an argument that the upward motion began when he placed the second hand on the ball and began the process of taking the shot. That moment occurs much earlier and the defender is still sliding to his right.

Syracuse-Duke Basketball

There is a big difference between when Fair started the motion that led to the shot and when he actually started moving up. There are also moments in between that could be construed as the start of the “motion.”

Even beyond the idea that basketball officials are being asked to suddenly change the way they have been making the already tough block/charge call for years, the new rule is not clearly defined and is just creating more confusion.

While Boeheim may have gone too far and taken away any chance for Syracuse to win the game, he probably had good reason to be upset.


One part of the rule that has not changed is that there is nothing saying the defender cannot be moving. It is possible for a defender to be moving and still have “legal guarding position.”