NCAA Basketball Firestorm: In Defense of Karl Hess

James PattersonContributor IFebruary 21, 2012

Karl Hess with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
Karl Hess with Duke coach Mike KrzyzewskiStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

I'm going out on a limb. I'm going to now become what seems like the only person in the entire country who's on the side of Karl Hess.

The ACC yesterday reprimanded Karl Hess, not for kicking out Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta, but for the way he did it. And I'm on board with that reprimand.

In that situation, you don't point at the spectators, give the toss signal as if you've just called a flagrant foul, and summon the arena police over. You quietly go to game management and have them deal with the malcontents.

But that's as far as my criticism of Karl Hess goes.

Problem is, it seems like the entire country is basing its judgment of one of the most seasoned and successful NCAA refs on a whole lot of speculation and assumption.


Speculation/assumption #1: Corchiani and Gugliotta said nothing that was out of line

According to whom? The two people themselves who were kicked out? Well of course they're going to say they didn't say anything wrong. Both men claim they didn't say anything of a profane nature. That's all well and good. But you don't have to use curse words to disrupt a basketball game.

Why is no one talking about the fact that the pair of NC State greats were sitting directly behind the official scorer? If Corchiani and Gugliotta were berating Hess incessantly every time he went to the table to report a foul, or to confer with the scorer or to look at the monitor for a replay, that's excessive, and it directly interferes with the officials' ability to do their jobs.


Speculation/assumption #2: You can't just kick out fans because they yell at the refs/Karl Hess has "rabbit ears"/Hess is too sensitive

One of the jobs of the officials out on the court is to make sure there is a fair playing environment. Two players sitting directly behind the officials' reporting area and inciting the crowd does not make for a fair playing environment for the visiting team.

If an official feels that two particular fans are making it difficult for a game to be played out in a fair manner, the officials absolutely can kick those fans out.

Yes, officials need to have thick skin. But that's not to say they are required to put up with everything.


Speculation/assumption #3: Karl Hess thinks he's bigger than the game

Actually, what Hess' actions say to me is that he doesn't think Corchiani or Gugliotta are bigger than the game, and he didn't allow them to continue thinking or acting so.

Look, you don't get to the level Hess is at (he's officiated in multiple Final Fours and was the crew chief in the 2007 NCAA championship game) without knowing where the line is that can't be crossed. 

Read between the lines of the ACC's official reprimand of Karl Hess. They didn't say he was out of line for what he did. They said he was out of line for how he did it.

And that, to me, says a lot.