Posted on: January 6, 2009 5:24 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2009 12:26 am

UTEP just hoping for a fair shake

Tony Barbee will coach UTEP in a game tonight at New Mexico.

If he's lucky, he won't get screwed again by the officials.

Did you hear about this story?

It was off the radar for much of the nation because A) It happened late on Dec. 30, and B) most aren't in tune with what happens at UTEP or Santa Clara. But what happened was a game-altering officiating mistake that cost the Miners a win and led to the suspension of three West Coast Conference officials.

Here's the deal: UTEP had the lead and the ball late in overtime, but a Santa Clara player stole an inbounds pass and quickly called a timeout. In fact, the referee (identified by sources as Thomas Wood) awarded the timeout but was then told Santa Clara had no timeouts remaining. As you know from watching Chris Webber, that means a technical foul should've been levied against Santa Clara and UTEP should've got the ball back. But rather than go that route, Wood declared his whistle inadvertent, and I'll just ask one question: When's the last time you heard of an inadvertent whistle in a college basketball game?

Answer: It never happens.

But if you want to believe that Wood really did merely blow an inadvertent whistle with 2.3 seconds remaining in OT, that's fine, because that's not even why the guy was suspended. You see, though an inadvertent whistle should've allowed Santa Clara to take the ball out of bounds, the Broncos should not have been allowed to make any substitutions. That's according to NCAA Rule 3, Section 4, Article 6 -- which states that substitutions are forbidden because of timing mistakes or inadvertent whistles in the final 59.9 seconds of regulation or overtime.

Pretty clear, right?

But the officiating crew -- which included Wood, Bruce Hicks and Alan Pierce -- allowed Santa Clara to check-in John Bryant, the all-league player who is averaging 17.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and you'll never guess what happened next. Yep, Bryant took the ball, collided with UTEP's Claude Britton and scored, and though one official called it a charge, another called it a block, and -- presumably because the game was being played at Santa Clara -- the crew decided to go with the blocking call, which gave Santa Clara an 89-88 victory.

Naturally, UTEP (via Conference USA) protested the ending.

On Friday, the West Coast Conference suspended the three officials for a game.

"Our review of the video focused on the final moments of overtime," WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said in a statement. "Our focus quickly became that substitutions were permitted by the officials at a critical time in the game when the rule book clearly lays out that they should not be permitted. We take the interpretation of the rule book, and our evaluation program very seriously, and will continue to do so in all of our sports."

Reached by phone, Barbee said: "I know what I saw there was a timeout asked for by Santa Clara and a timeout awarded by the official, and for whatever reason when the official was alerted by the Santa Clara bench that they were out of timeouts he changed his call to an inadvertent whistle, which triggered the illegal substitution in the first place. I hate to see anybody lose their livlihood for any amount of time during these difficult economic times, but officials have to be held accountable for egregious mistakes just like coaches are."

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 10, 2008 2:00 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2008 2:26 pm

Barbee looking forward to the addition of Cooper

Though all the attention this week has been on the 1966 Texas Western basketball team (and rightfully so), focus will soon turn to the 2008-09 version led by Tony Barbee at the school now known as UTEP.

The Miners return three of their top four scorers - among them All-American candidate Stefon Jackson, who averaged 23.6 points per game as a junior -- from a 19-win team that made the semifinals of March's C-USA Tournament. Consequently, the program could be poised for a breakthrough season in Barbee's third year, particularly if transfer Kareem Cooper shows the talent that made him part of the Laurinburg Prep squad that finished 40-0 in 2005.

Like Laurinburg teammates Shawne Williams, Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson, Cooper signed with Memphis out of prep school. The 7-foot center averaged 4.2 points in 10.9 minutes per contest in two seaons while helping the Tigers to back-to-back Elite Eights. But a string of off-the-court issues led to Cooper ultimately transferring to UTEP in the summer of 2007, at which time he was an out-of-shape 315 pounds.

"But now he's down to 280," Barbee said. "He's been really strong to this point and done what we needed from him. Now he has to understand what's in front of him and understand this is probably his last stop. So he has to keep himself focused."

Will he start?

"I'll start the best players who give us the best chance to win," Barbee said. "But there's no question, he's one of the best players I have on my team."

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 7, 2008 10:40 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2008 10:41 pm

Wetzel, Barbee remember Haskins

If you're wondering why Don Haskins didn't attend a single UTEP game last season, it's because he had part of his foot amputated after complications from diabetes. And the surgery made walking difficult and eventually forced him into a wheelchair. And the Hall of Fame coach just wasn't going to let you view him like that.

"He was such a proud man," said Dan Wetzel, the author of Glory Road. "He didn't want people to see him that way."

With those words, Wetzel went quiet for a moment.

It was understandable.

The Yahoo! Sports columnist started the day covering a Dallas Cowboys game and ended it with the news that Haskins-- a man Wetzel said was "like a second father" -- died Sunday at the age of 78. That's a helluva tough way to spend the weekend, even if most close to Haskins knew his time was running out.

"The El Paso community and people who knew him best knew his health had gotten to a point that his better days were behind him," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said by phone while on his way to a press conference in El Paso. "But it's still a shock because it's a tragedy. He did so much for so many people."

Haskins' most famous achievement was how he broke color barriers in 1966 when he used five black starters to win the national title at Texas Western, now known as UTEP. It was a significant moment in college athletics, yet one that brought death threats to Haskins, who remained unfazed and by extension forced other programs from other leagues to change with the times.

For that, he'll forever be a relevant figure in history.

For Barbee, he was an asset in the short time they spent together.

"The wisdom he imparted on me in these past two years has been invaluable," said Barbee, who became UTEP's first black coach in 2006. "To have a guy like that to talk with and throw ideas off was something special. But he wasn't just a treasure to El Paso. He was a national treasure."

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com