Indianapolis, Ind. - May 28, 2010 - For the better part of three decades, Ed Bilik has worked behind the scenes to contribute to the sport James Naismith invented.
Bilik has spent the latter half of that service – the last 14 years, to be exact – as the NCAA men’s basketball secretary-rules editor. He attended his last meeting in that role with the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee earlier this month.
It’s been a long, fun-filled journey that has included an examination of self-awareness for Bilik.
“I enjoy the game, but I never thought I would do something like this,” said Bilik, who is a former men’s basketball head coach and director of athletics at Springfield. “My mind doesn’t work that way. I’m a conceptual thinker. But when you deal with the rules, you deal with every detail. I grew into enjoying this, and it was because I loved the game.”
He attended his first Basketball Rules Committee meeting in 1969. Bilik’s service lasted through 1984, and he came back later in the role of secretary-rules editor. He will be succeeded by Art Hyland.
While Bilik never intended to delve this deeply into the basketball rules book, he knows the sport couldn’t function without the committee’s work.
“I’m passionate about the game, and the foundations of the game are the rules,” said Bilik, who was also a member of the faculty at Springfield for 40 years before retiring in 1999.
The Basketball Rules Committee is always looking at the state of the game. For example, in the 2008-09 season, the group extended the three-point line from 19 feet, 9 inches, to 20 feet, 9 inches. A primary reason for the change was to create more space between perimeter and post players and reduce physical play.
In this last rules committee meeting, members talked about widening the three-second lane but made no recommendations. The committee is still examining the subject.
Members did, however, recommend an experimental rule that adds a restricted area arc two feet from the center of the basket. That will be applied in multi-team events and exhibition games next year. The experiment would extend last year’s rules change that made it illegal for a secondary defender to take a charge underneath the basket.
The experimental rule has yet to be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP has a conference call June 2), but it’s an example of how the Basketball Rules Committee is always thinking of the game’s best interests.
“You can’t let the game become stagnant,” Bilik said. “The one thing we have to consistently do is to look at our game and see if it is meeting the characteristics of the players. That’s why we have to make dimensional changes.”
He said the committee also must constantly monitor the amount of physical play underneath the basket since the players are becoming stronger and faster.
Bilik, 75, was a former student-athlete who played basketball and baseball at Springfield before graduating in 1957. He earned a master’s degree in athletics administration at the college and later completed doctorate work at Oregon in 1964.
After a life of teaching and making sure the game is played fairly, Bilik is ready to enjoy his retirement.
“I’ve worked with some wonderful people through the years,” Bilik said. “That’s what I’m going to miss. My son asked me what I was going to do now. My wife said I can get a life now. I know for at least one year, I’m going to live an uncomplicated life.”
That includes plenty of tee times with his friends in Savannah, Georgia, which he calls home.