Untangling the Double Whistle

What is the proper ruling?

The Umpire stopped the clock with a raised open hand and signals A-1 traveled, while the Referee stopped play with a closed fist before signaling B-1 for a pushing foul. How should this be handled?

Now if you have been officiating for any length of time, you likely have experienced first-hand, or know a referee who has been caught up in the unenviable situation of, dealing with block/charge (sometimes referred to as a “blarge”) scenarios that have two officials blowing their whistle and both giving differing preliminary signals.

We all know from the safe confines of the sidelines, that the root of the problem is offering a preliminary signal, especially in an area of dual responsibility, without taking a quick glance/listen for our partner’s raised clenched fist/whistle, on a bang-bang ruling.

But that is ground we will plow on another day…

Today’s REF 60 post deals with double whistles involving a violation and a personal foul.

You blow your whistle to rule a travel; and your partner blows their whistle and has a foul.

Two referees standing with their arms raised — you with an open hand; and your partner with a clenched fist.

What do you?

Let’s add a little more texture to this picture we’ve painted.

In a scholastic contest (NFHS), the Umpire blows their whistle, believing that A-1 traveled as A-1 was being tenaciously guarded by B-1…However, at nearly the exact same time, the Referee blows their whistle to call a foul on B-1.

Many coaches in today’s game, and even fans, are sophisticated enough to spot the open hand for a violation, and a closed fist for a foul…More times than not, the officials won’t be able to discreetly cover their tracks and they will have to untangle this mess.

The key component to understand is, you can’t enforce both rulings...

This is NOT like a block-charge (double-foul or sometimes called “blarge”) scenario.

There is no rules coverage to administer the acts as occurring simultaneously.

Something happened first; the violation or the foul, and you have to quickly make the correct determination.

If the officials decided the violation occurred first, the ball becomes dead, and the personal foul by B-1 would be ignored, unless it was deemed intentional or flagrant.

If the crew agreed the contact by B-1 caused A-1 to travel, then the foul would be enforced.

Maintaining good eye contact with your partner (or partners in 3-person), and to be listening for the sound of another whistle being blown, particularly on plays in the areas of dual coverage, will go along way to reducing the number of differing preliminary signals on double whistles that you will find yourself ensnared in this season.

Rules Reference:
NFHS Casebook 2.6. A-B



About Tim Malloy

Tim is the co-founder of "60 Seconds on Officiating" and has over 40 years of basketball referee experience with IAABO Camden New Jersey Board 34. Tim lives in West Deptford, NJ . More Posts

2 Comments on Untangling the Double Whistle

  1. A perfect example of something that HAS TO BE COVERED during your pre-game. While of course not always the case, this seems to happen too often when crews don’t work together and don’t trust their partners (or you work with a partner that watches the ball too much). If you are calling this in an area that is not your primary and the call has to be made, you really should be “110% sure” that your situation happened first in which case you will be making a move so your partner knows, right?
    Of course if the play is in the paint or “grey areas”, only my first sentence above applies — cover it in your pre-game.
    Happy whistling!

  2. Randy your first sentence says it all. In my area the 2 main rule sets worked are NFHS and FIBA. As a result most of guys pre-game the FIBA mechanic on such issues where the call is given up to the official towards whom the play is coming as their focus more likely has picked up the defender. This means that I wouldn’t as Trail move to my preliminary signal. If, in giving up the call, I see that my partner has a foul when I was prepared to go with a travel (violation) I will come in and give him the information and the call then rests with him. Not perfect but getting together and also avoid the blarge unless you happen to have one of those partners who is stubborn and then its up to you to let the call go for the good of the game. Supervisors pick up on this easily

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