The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference has suspended three referees who had a hand in wiping away a last-second win by the University of Sioux Falls women's basketball team against Winona State on Friday.
The situation in question occurred after USF senior Taylor Varsho buried a deep three-pointer seemingly as time expired, putting the Cougars up 59-58 over Winona State and prompting a flood of bench players and fans to pile onto the floor to celebrate.
Alex Schultz posted video of the would-be game-winner to Twitter.
Referees began shooing people off the court immediately after the basket and eventually determined that four-tenths of a second remained on the clock when Varsho's shot entered the cylinder.
Furthermore, and this is where it gets dicey, the referees also began considering the idea of penalizing USF for the court rush—a notion Winona State head coach Scott Ballard admitted to having "put in [the officials'] ear," per the Winona Daily News.
"I put the bug in their ear," Ballard said. "'You can't have people storming the floor before the game is over. That's interfering with the conclusion of the game.'"
Ballard claims the storming involved everyone in the gym with USF rooting interests.
"There were hundreds of them," Ballard said. "It wasn't like a dozen. It was the entire student section."
The resulting technical foul ended in two made free throws for Winona State, giving the team a 60-59 win over USF. The rancor that followed compelled the NSIC to investigate the game and levy four-game suspensions for the referees involved, stating they had failed to interpret and apply the rules of the game properly.
NSIC Commissioner Erin Lind released a statement on the suspensions, calling the situation "unfortunate" but saying the league will not overturn the outcome of the game.
Lind's statement, per Deadspin's Timothy Burke:
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.
To my knowledge, this is the first time we have ever publicly discussed the suspension of an official or officials. Typically, when we have instances such as this, we handle it internally and deal directly with the institutions involved. To publicly discuss this unfortunate situation is not something we wanted to do, but in this instance, we felt this course of action was warranted in the spirit of transparency.
We want to assure you that the conference takes all officiating matters seriously and we appreciate your cooperation as we work to address issues as they arise. Although officiating is an extraordinarily difficult and often thankless job, our student athletes, coaches, and administrators deserve proper and consistent officiating.
The Star Tribune notes the rule referees used to punish USF is aimed to address fans, band members or mascots' doing anything "unsportsmanlike" that delays the game or prevents continuous play:
The rule referenced reads: "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 penalty is two free throws awarded to the offended team.
Kind of hard to see that one fitting in this case. An apparent buzzer-beater was celebrated for what it appeared to be.
In any case, the officials' four-game suspension also forbids them from officiating NSIC postseason games this season. So they won't be buzz-killing any more 30-footers this year.
Dan is on Twitter. He loves how sports institutions have no problem with taking a bite of real people's bank accounts but will never meddle with the sanctity of the almighty box score.