In 2015, referees didn’t fare so well. Now, most of the hate towards the officials came from football, where both the NFL and college football had their fair share of horrible calls that greatly affected the outcome of games.
Apparently, in 2016, basketball referees are out to prove that this is their year.
The latest incident all went down in South Dakota, in a women’s basketball game between Division II schools, Sioux Falls and Winona State.
Sioux Falls was trailing, 58-56, in the game’s final moments, before Taylor Varsho nailed a thirty-footer that seemingly give her team a 59-58 win. After the shot went down and all of the time on the clock appeared to have expired, Varsho’s teammates and other Sioux Falls students stormed the court to celebrate with her.
However, there was one problem. The game’s referees — with an assist from Winona State head coach Scott Ballard, who admitted to putting the “bug in their ear” — determined that Varsho’s shot did not come at the buzzer, but with 0.4 seconds remaining, and therefore the court storming from the Sioux Falls bench warranted a technical foul.
Winona State, given a second life, knocked down both free throws and escaped with a 60-59 victory.
The rule that the officials were using was this one, per the Star-Tribune:
“Team followers (fans, bands, cheerleaders and mascots associated with either team) shall not commit an unsportsmanlike act, including, but not limited to, the following … Delaying the game by preventing the ball from being promptly made live or by preventing continuous play, such as but not limited to, followers entering the playing court before the player activity has been terminated.”
The key word there is “unsportsmanlike.” While the Sioux Falls players were incorrect in thinking the game was over, they argued that they had every reason to believe it was, because the buzzer sounded and the red light on the backboard went off. With the euphoria of the game-winner, and those other factors, it would be a little ridiculous to assume that the players and students knowingly rushed the court with time on the clock.
However, that’s what officials determined, and not only did it cost Sioux Falls the game, but it also cost the officials a decent amount of money. They’ve each been suspended four games and are not allowed to call the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Tournament.
NSIC commissioner Erin Lind released a statement regarding the suspension, saying that the officials misinterpreted the rule. Unfortunately, changing the result of the game to Sioux Falls is not a viable option. The statement partially reads:
As many of you are aware, we experienced an unfortunate situation Friday, January 8th during the Winona State University and the University of Sioux Falls women’s basketball game where the outcome was, in part, affected by a misapplication of a rule. The NSIC Women’s Basketball officials are expected to have knowledge of all NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules and properly adjudicate them during a game. In this instance, it has been determined that this expectation was not met by the crew in charge of officiating.
It is important to state that overturning the result of the game cannot and will not be considered. However, in addition to receiving a letter of reprimand, each of the game officials involved have been suspended from four NSIC contests along with becoming ineligible to officiate the post season in the NSIC this year.
It’s often an overused cliche to say a bad call cost a team the game, but in this case, that’s literally what happened.