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Referee Uses Capital Idea to Stop Game Clocks on a Whistle

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RALEIGH — Many kids dream of playing ACC basketball. Mike Costabile of Hillsborough loved the game, and liked to tinker with radios as a young boy. Now that he is all grown up, he has a Capital Idea that takes center court.

When basketball games come down to the wire, every second counts. Even a tenth of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing.

"When I blow the whistle, the clock stops on the whistle," said inventor Mike Costabile.

Costabile has invented a way to make the games more fair by eliminating human error. It is calledPrecision Time, and it can stop the clock faster than a person can react to the whistle and push the stop button.

He believes that on average there is about a minute saved per college game.

A tiny microphone next to the whistle picks up the sound and sends a signal to a box worn on the official's belt which bounces it to the time clock. All that happens at the speed of light.

In order to start the clock again, the official simply pushes a button on the bottom of the box.

"It's very easy to find. People say referees are blind, so I made it like Braille," said Costabile.

He can say that because he is a referee. This idea hit him when he was officiating in the NBA in 1993.

"We had so many game clock errors and problems. I remember in the NBA situations would happen where the whistle would blow, the clock wouldn't stop, and we would go back and guess at how much time to put on the clock," said Costabile.

Now, there is no guessing. Each system is custom made for each arena, and you cannot stop the clock by whistling from the stands.

The ACC, CIAA, Pac 10, Big 12 and the NBA all use the Precision Time system now. And it is not just for basketball. Any sport using a whistle and a time clock, like wrestling or hockey, can use it, too.

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Debra Morgan, Reporter
John Cox, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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