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."