The officiating in the 2023 NCAA basketball championship game between LSU and Iowa fell below expectations, per an NCAA review as well as an independent review commissioned by the Associated Press.
With two rising stars in Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark pitted against one another, LSU’s 102-85 win over Iowa averaged a record 9.9 million viewers on ABC. And the calls from the referees stood out as an issue — including the four personal fouls called on Clark.
While the NCAA had planned a review of officiating after the 2024 tournament, it sped up the process after the criticism surrounding the 2023 title game. Per Lynn Holzman, the NCAA vice president for women’s basketball, officials were graded on accuracy — and that number was below average for national championship games.
“In the championship game itself, for example, we typically have a performance that I think is 91% historically,” she told the Associated Press. “In that game, the percentage of correct calls was below that, around 88%. That’s factually the case.”
An independent review, conducted for the Associated Press by an official who did not participate in the LSU-Iowa game, found that the percentage of correct calls was lower than the 88% mark given by Holzman.
The independent review cited mistakes made during the game, including a foul on Reese at the end of the first quarter and two offensive fouls missed (one for each team) in the third quarter.
“Officiating across the board is a concern for people,” said North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart, president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. “Doing that assessment was a good step showing that they are trying to address it.”
The NCAA review was done by the Pictor Group, which offered up six observations and recommendations. Among them was better education and training for the NCAA women’s basketball committees on officiating as well as selecting and assigning crews.
“They felt that the national officiating program is run with integrity and there’s no question around any of that,” Holzman said. “They identified areas we can be better.”
Changes already have been made to the NCAA rulebook following the 2022-23 season. One update: Players can no longer be charged with a technical foul for certain delay-of-game violations. One example? Iowa star Caitlin Clark was given a foul in the third quarter of the championship game for not giving the ball to an official after a foul was called. Clark was charged with a technical due to it being the second delay-of-game violation for the Hawkeyes.
“Our committee is going to get a specific education about how we evaluate officials and this is what we’re looking at,” Holzman said. “The committee is going to be trained up.”