After officiating in the past three Final Fours, official John Higgins will not be on the floor this year. Higgins and his crew were left out of the second weekend's games after after the crew mishandled a call in the Auburn vs. College of Charleston Round 1 match-up, and it will get the same treatment for the Final Four. Higgins was the alternate for that game, but as part of the crew he is being punished as well.
"If an official errs on a rule, misses a game-deciding play or his miss-call ratio is too high, they are subject to not advancing in the NCAA tournament," said NCAA officiating coordinator J.D. Collins to ESPN.
Collins' explanation after the game left a lot to be desired for CoC fans that felt robbed.
The official called the foul, briefly turned his head towards the scorer's table and then turned his head back towards the basket where the foul occurred. When he did so, Auburn's Jared Harper was holding the ball because [Okeke] passed it to him just as he grabbed the rebound. The official pointed to Harper, identifying him as the shooter. Had any of the officials been aware of this, or had anyone alerted the officiating crew to the fact that the wrong player was at the foul line, the officials would have been able to review the play and determine [Okeke] should have been the shooter.
Keeping the crew out is a way to maintain accountability for officials on the floor. Higgins could have corrected the call himself, but failed to do so. Higgins built a bit of a reputation from his time in the Big 12, especially among Kansas fans, but he's always been well-rated. Last season, after Kentucky lost in the Elite Eight to North Carolina in a game that Higgins officiated, he took legal action against a Kentucky media company, saying it sparked death threats against him.
Auburn ended up beating College of Charleston 62-58 after the mishap before being routed by Clemson.