TV Teddy! Back in action!
College basketball fans know too well the whimsical ways of referee Ted Valentine. That said, it's been a spell since we’ve seen him operating with the gusto he exhibited Wednesday night.
While officiating Auburn’s matchup against South Carolina, Valentine stopped play to do what he does best: send people packing. In this case, the offender was a fan sitting courtside under the South Carolina basket.
Ty Duffy of The Big Lead spotted video of the ejection, and strangely enough, the footage doesn’t include a wild tantrum or argument.
Valentine blew his whistle, pointed to the fan and told him to go to his room.
The fan didn’t put up a fight. He stood up and left—no argument, no wild display of outrage or aggravated embrace.
According to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, the man is question was Michael Hardin, a 41-year-old Auburn fan and former walk-on for the basketball team. Hardin says he and many other fans were upset with the disparity in the foul calls between the two teams.
“I think everybody who was sitting with me was pretty much frustrated with the calls and we had been telling the refs to blow their whistle," Hardin told Marcello.
According to Hardin, the remark that caused the ejection was an innocuous observation directed at Valentine. Hardin says he spoke up to the official after Auburn’s Jordon Granger received an audible slap on the arm while driving to the basket.
“I simply said to him, 'Did you hear that?'” Hardin said. “I said it pretty loud. As soon as I said that [Valentine] turned around [and] he said 'I want him out of here.'”
Marcello notes that eight fouls were called against the Tigers in the second half before the Gamecocks received their first foul.
Auburn guard Chris Denson spoke with Marcello about Hardin’s ejection and expressed his support, saying: “I don’t know what happened but I know that’s my boy, man."
Hardin said he wasn’t surprised by Valentine’s reaction.
“Teddy has a reputation,” Hardin said. “He likes the spotlight, so this was right up his alley.”
Indeed, he does have a flair for making himself the center of things.
Fortunately for Hardin, his encounter with Valentine was minimally handsy.
He left his seat but was able watch the rest of the game from an adjacent section higher up in the stadium—far away from Valentine’s trigger-happy gesticulations.
The SEC has yet to comment on Valentine's decision to toss a fan. Ejecting paying customers isn't common for a reason, and fans usually have to be unruly and irresponsible to warrant removal from the arena.
Granted, we've only heard Hardin's side of the story, but judging by the video, there seems to be a lack of the demonstrative vitriol that would warrant an ejection. A likely scenario that could play out is the SEC reprimanding Valentine in a statement and moving on.
They might send him to his room for a day, but no one is going to take away Ted's television privileges.
You never know what you’ll get when you tune in for some Ted TV.