CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As we head into the second half of the college basketball season, I believe it's time we stop and take a timeout.Because of timeouts.They have become like Stonehenge. They are antiquated. And no one, especially in the West Virginia Conference, seems to understand why they are so positioned.At Monday's game between West Liberty and the University of Charleston, there was more confusion over timeouts than fans are experiencing over conference affiliation.
Let's first step back. As most Division I fans know, each team has five timeouts per game, although one has to be taken in the first half or it's lost.In addition, there are "media" timeouts. I put quote marks around the word because that's what they are incorrectly called. They should be called "electronic media" timeouts.OK, wait. Newspapers are now electronic as well, aren't we?My point is NEWSPAPER REPRESENTATIVES DON'T NEED TIMEOUTS. WE DON'T WANT THEM. WE HAVE DEADLINES. WE LOATHE TIMEOUTS.So please call them "radio/TV" timeouts. Blame them, not us. (Whew. I suddenly feel much, much better.)Anyway, radio/TV timeouts are taken at the first stoppage of Division I play after the 16-, 12-, 8- and 4-minute marks. It's a wet blanket thrown over those actually attending the game, but those making money quite frankly don't care. It's more advertising money and more time for those attending to buy more and more $8 beers.So at WVU, Marshall, etc., games there are 18 timeouts unless coaches don't use their full allotment. As ridiculous as that number is, at least it's understandable.Now, let's step back to the West Liberty-UC game.Within the West Virginia Conference (which, by the way, is sadly vanishing for reasons as equally head-scratching as Stonehenge), there are actually fewer timeouts: a maximum of 16.You'd think I'd be celebrating.Which I would - if I could understand the system. Or if the coaches, players and officials could understand the system.
Here's the deal: In the WVC, each team has six, rather than five, timeouts (four full or 75-second timeouts and two 30-second timeouts). Radio/TV timeouts, however, are limited to two per half.Yet those radio/TV timeouts have the ability to vanish. In different ways. (Sort of like magic, but real.)In the first half, the first (under 14-minute) radio/TV timeout is eliminated if either team takes a full (but not 30-second) timeout before the 14-minute mark.Cool, huh?Also, following the first radio/TV timeout, the second such timeout (under the 7-minute mark) is eliminated if either team takes a full (but not 30-second) timeout.With me so far?
In the second half, though, the deal changes. The first radio/TV timeout then is eliminated if either team takes a full or 30-second timeout before the 14-minute mark. (Why that changes is something for IBM's supercomputer Watson.)If a team takes a 30-second timeout before the mark, the break is transformed into a radio/TV 75-second timeout, yet the team is only charged for a 30.Then the rule reverts.If either team takes a full timeout (no mention of 30) following the first radio/TV timeout but before the 7-minute mark then the second radio/TV timeout vanishes.Confusing, eh? And you should see the participants trying to keep it straight.On Monday, I sat at the scorer's table for the West Liberty-UC game. Repeatedly assistant coaches and game officials visited to ask about timeouts.At one point, Hilltoppers coach Jim Crutchfield (aka The Calmest Coach In The History of Man) asked a ref if a "media" timeout was coming. The ref nodded yes.It did not. It had vanished. Crutchfield didn't get mad because, apparently, he does not get mad. But he certainly was frustrated. "He told me there was," Crutchfield calmly explained to another official.It's craziness. The nice part is the maximum number of timeouts within the WVC is 16. There can be as few as 12.But consider UC shot 55 free throws. West Liberty shot 24. Play was stopped more than speeding cars around Milton.What's amusing is some WVC games have no radio (and almost always no television) stations broadcasting. Yet the breaks are still taken.Thankfully, Monday's game was exciting. Overall, the night was a great experience for most attending Eddie King gym.But as for interpreting that timeout policy? Well, understanding Stonehenge might be easier.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.