If you haven’t already heard about the bizarre heckling accusations and eventual ejection of former North Carolina State star players Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani courtesy of well-respected ACC official Karl Hess, it’s not too late to get caught up in the absurd series of events that made all three individuals look like immature attention-seekers.
To make a long story short, Gugliotta and Corchiani returned to the NC State campus to be honored for the great contributions they made on the court as players during the 1988-89 season, the year the Wolfpack last won the regular season ACC championship. Instead of being able to enjoy the recognition, the pair was tossed from the arena when Hess got tired of their heckling, something officials are expected to put up with game in and game out.
Hess was reprimanded by the ACC, but not for the embarrassment of the situation itself. The technical reasoning for Hess being under fire is that he called for Gugliotta and Corchiani’s removal directly from a Raleigh police officer rather than asking the home team’s (NC State) management to take care of the situation.
Now I would never discourage fans from trying to play their role in creating the home court advantage atmosphere in front of which every home team loves to play. While Gugliotta and Corchiani are 42- and 43-years-old, respectively, and might be considered beyond the age of childish taunting, they have the same right to yell at referees in favor of their team, so long as it doesn’t involve profanity-laced tirades – which has not been claimed to be the case in this instance.
In an email described in an Associated Press story, sent by ACC Associate Commissioner for Men’s Basketball Karl Hicks to NC State Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Chris Kingston on Monday night, the ACC said Corchiani and Gugliotta weren’t ejected for anything that they said.
“According to Hess, ‘They were ejected for excessive demonstration on several calls as they came right up to the scorer’s table. The policeman at the end of the FSU bench was warned that their continual excessive demonstration that incited the crowd would result in ejection,'” the email states.
The thing that is misleading about Hess’ statement is that Gugliotta and Corchiani were seated in the front row directly behind the scorer’s table. It’s not like they were climbing on top of the announcers and stat keepers to get their point across.
Hess himself is a decorated former college basketball player. He starred at Liberty in the late ’70s and remains the all-time leading scorer with 2,737 points. His jersey hangs in the Vines Center’s rafter in Lynchburg, Va., just as Gugliotta and Corchiani’s dangle from the ceiling in the RBC Center in Raleigh.
It was simply Hess failing at one of the keys elements of being a referee: blocking out the crowd and other external distractions. It looked like Hess was looking for someone to toss because he could, not because there was a reason to. According to an ESPN interview with Corchiani, Hess tried to throw a student out of the game earlier, only to have NC State officials allow him to remain at the game.
Hess surely didn’t handle the situation like the professional the ACC claims him to be, and he certainly owes Gugliotta, Corchiani and NC State an apology for embarrassing them if he is unable to come up with a legitimate reason for throwing the two out.
Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried wasn’t happy either.
“I’m disappointed, quite frankly, in the ACC because not only did he throw out two of North Carolina State’s greats, he threw out two of the ACC’s greats,” Gottfried said, according to Yahoo! Sports. “The league is supporting an official rather than supporting former great players.
“The former great players, in my opinion, were embarrassed and wronged when they shouldn’t have been. I don’t think you can have rabbit ears like that if you’re a referee and start throwing people out. I was disappointed in the whole thing.”
The whole situation speaks to the fact that referees and fans need to better learn and understand the dynamic relationship between each other. For as long as sports exist, fans will blame refs for bad calls and of their favorite team’s losses, giving them a hard time from start to finish. And as long as the heckling is clean, officials need to deal with it.
Referees on the other hand need to be retrained in the art of not being noticed. What happened to the days when officials were applauded for being “invisible” during an athletic contest? Sports already have divas on the playing surfaces and don’t need more.
Refs shouldn’t take away from the game day experience, especially a guy like Hess, who’s draped in recognition from his playing days.