Is the ACC Getting Too Physical?

By Travis Sawchik; The Post and Courier

February 4, 2010

CLEMSON – Clad in all black at Boston College, commentators said Oliver Purnell looked like he had stepped out of the film High Noon.

The Tigers are stepping into both literal and figurative fights to contend for their third straight NCAA appearance.

In recent weeks, several ACC coaches have claimed the college game has become too physical. Last week Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton likened the interior play of his Seminoles’ win against Georgia Tech to a “barroom brawl.”

Oliver Purnell is among the coaches who would like to see the game become less physical.

“Ask yourself ‘Would the sport be more exciting if there was less physical play?'” Purnell said. “I personally think it would.”

Less hand-checking and bumping would help Clemson.

On a yearly basis, the Tigers do not have the luxury of signing 6-10 All-Americans as Duke and North Carolina do.

The Tigers are tied with Virginia for the smallest lineup in the ACC with rotation players averaging 6 feet, 5.3 inches.

Less checking could especially benefit penetrating Clemson point guard Demontez Stitt who is questionable (foot/ankle) for today’s game. Purnell said the Tigers would be lucky to get “15 minutes” from Stitt.

It was a non-call against Stitt in the closing moments at Georgia Tech that is part of the reason the Tigers are below .500 and in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. Remaining are physical road games against Maryland, Florida State, Wake and Virginia Tech.

Freshman forward Devin Booker broke his nose at practice this week but is still expected to play.

Purnell said the younger brother of star Trevor Booker took an elbow in the nose during one of the team’s workouts.

Of the seven ACC teams to qualify for the NCAA Tournament last season, only Maryland had a losing conference record.

To make the game less physical, Purnell’s plan would have officials tightly call early-season games.

“The players and coaches would adjust,” Purnell said. “The same thing happened in the NBA a few years back. (At first) there was a lot of complaining and discussion of too many fouls. Guess what? Players and coaches adjusted.

Maryland coach Gary Williams coached his 1,000th career game last week. He would also like to see a less physical game though it’s not the first time he’s been around rugged play. Williams coached in the Big East in the 1980s when the conference instituted a six-foul limit.

“You’re talking to a guy who coached at Ohio State 21 years ago where they would hire football officials to keep them busy during the winter,” Williams said.

“I’m not particularly happy about it. You have to be aggressive you have to be tough obviously, but it is a game of skill. When physical play takes away part of the skill then I think that is hurting the game.”