2008 was full of controversies involving game officials - whether it was Ed Hochuli’s infamous mishandling of Jay Cutler’s fumble in the first Broncos vs. Chargers game, or SEC official Wilbur Hackett, Jr. taking out South Carolina’s QB. Unfortunately, it looks like a trio of West Coast Conference basketball referees are already blowing their New Year’s Resolution of “we will not blow any calls that cost teams games.”
The EL PASO TIMES reports that the WCC has suspended a men’s basketball crew for the opening game of conference play after making a series of errors in Santa Clara’s 89-88 OT victory over UTEP in the championship game of the Cable Car Classic. (Do they really have cable cars in Santa Clara - I thought that was in San Francisco?) Technically, Thomas Wood, Bruce Hicks and Alan Pierce were suspended for allowing an illegal substitution, but according to UTEP AD Bob Stull, there were a number of problems:
“First of all, we didn’t execute the inbounds pass, or we would have won the game,” Stull said. “But, they stole the inbounds pass and the guy had the ball in the corner, his back to the basket and no time outs. He called time out with 2.3 seconds left. The official blew the whistle and gave them the time out. The player then said we don’t have any time outs and the official said ‘my mistake, my mistake’ and allowed them to take the ball out of bounds.
“Then, they were allowed to check in their 7-footer (John Bryant, who is listed at 6-10, 305 pounds),” Stull said. “They throw the ball in to him and he runs over Claude Britten and scores. One official called a charge, another overruled him and called a block and counted the basket. That’s a lot of things to happen in the last 2.3 seconds. We have a time out called when they had none — which is a technical foul. They allowed the substitution at that time, and that is clearly against the rules. And then you have the split decision on the block/charge. The next morning, the Bay Area radio shows were just ripping them.”
Take what Stull says with a grain of salt - obviously he’s biased, and I have trouble believing that any Bay Area radio shows were talking about Santa Clara basketball - ever. But, Stull does know about getting hosed by horrible officiating: in an ironic twist, he was Missouri’s head football coach in the infamous “Fifth Down Game” against Colorado in 1990.
The WCC says that despite the errors, the game result will not be changed. Which might be a huge deal for UTEP, which is 8-5 and could potentially be a bubble team to get into the NCAA Tournament. Glad to see the refs are taking their commitment to excellence so seriously in 2009.