Down two with six seconds left at Vandy last night, Alabama’s JaMychal Green drove the baseline in a bid to get the Tide even.
Jeff Lockridge of the NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN reports on what happened next:
JaMychal Green, who scored 19 of his 23 in the second half, had a chance to tie it or put Alabama back in front, but he stepped on the baseline trying to drive past Festus Ezeli with six seconds.
All due respect to Lockridge, Green didn’t step on the baseline.
Not surprisingly, Don Kausler of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS saw things differently, as he was sure to report on the “controversial call” that cost the Tide the game.
1. The controversial call(s). No, JaMychal Green did not appear to step out of bounds as he drove the baseline for a potential game-tying basket with 6.3 seconds left. He appeared to be fouled by Vandy big man Festus Ezeli. The call/no-call is what everybody will be talking about this morning.
Now let’s get an account from a quality college hoops blog called Rushthecourt.net:
The win is stained a bit, though, by what looked to be a terrible call by baseline official Tim Higgins.
After a time out, Alabama worked it around to JaMychal Green who made a move along the far baseline toward the goal against defender Festus Ezeli. During the move, Green took a little contact from Ezeli. No call came from Higgins, but that was fine, because you can’t expect to get that call on minimal contact at such a late stage.
With his next step, though, Green planted his right foot very close to the baseline, but Higgins felt that Green had crossed it, blew his whistle, and gave the ball back to Vandy with just over six seconds left. They salted it away with two John Jenkins free throws.
Within seconds, Twitter was alive with people claiming that Higgins, despite standing right on top of the play, had missed it and denied Alabama a chance to tie. ESPN2′s second replay appeared to confirm that Higgins blew it, and announcers Rece Davis and Hubert Davis even stated on-air that they didn’t feel Green had touched the line.
So what’s the difference between the first two accounts and the last report?
The latter named the official, Tim Higgins.
I recognize the repercussion of outing an official for what is a bad call, especially considering that it may have some bearing on where Alabama lands in the postseason. But Higgins, who isn’t exactly shy about positive media attention, is a professional and knows that comes with the territory. And there’s no denying he went out of his way to make an incorrect call that unquestionably determined the final outcome of the game.
If that call had happened at any other time in the game, and hadn’t scuttled ‘Bama’s chances, then I can understand not naming Higgins in a media account of the game. But what Higgins did last night in Nashville wasn’t any different than MLB umpire Jim Joyce costing Armando Galarraga a perfect game last summer. (Though last night was obviously a much lower-profile affair.)
The pat argument for not naming college officials is they aren’t full-time, but nor are NFL officials, and lord knows they’re under the media microscope like no other in the profession.
College basketball is a billion-dollar business for the NCAA and its member schools. While I can understand treating an unpaid teenage college athlete in a more considerate manner than a professional athlete, there’s no reason to shield professional collegiate officials from the same scrutiny endured by their pro league counterparts.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if Higgins feels the same way.
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