In his press conference after his West Virginia men’s basketball team blew a double-digit lead at Kansas last Saturday, head coach Bob Huggins openly questioned the officiating in the game. The head coach was not happy with the way the calls went in the loss in Allen Fieldhouse last Saturday and he specifically he called attention to the 35-2 foul shot disparity that favored the home team in a critical matchup atop the Big 12 standings.
The Big 12 Conference publicly reprimanded Huggins for his comments in a press release on Thursday, February 22—five days after the actual comments—siting the Big 12 Conference’s Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct rules. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby stated that Huggins was in violation of this code and that “There are proper channels within the Conference structure to handle officiating concerns,” according to the release.
Section 12.3.2 of the Conference Handbook specifically states, “The public airing of officiating matters, whether directly or indirectly, during or after a game, verbally or by use of video, on or off the record, is prohibited.”
While a reprimand such as this would not shock anyone who follows the NBA, where most public comments against officiating are fined, the fact that the Big 12 decided to call out Huggins five days after the incident is another example of the ineptitude of the Conference.
For starters, the game took place on Saturday, Feb. 17, in the primetime slot and the comments were very public after the game. If Huggins had received this reprimand on Monday, this would have been both expected and timely. The issue here is that it took so long for the league to “review” this.
Next, this reprimand carries little weight. It’s a public admonishment for bad behavior and nothing else. The section on rules lists a public reprimand as one of the lowest forms of punishment, but does not explicitly denote a pathway of escalation for punishment; it can be inferred that any further public comments made by Huggins will result in an institutional or personal fine, though.
The issue most WVU fans—and non-Kansas fans in the Big 12—will take issue with is that Bob Huggins called out something that we all know to be true: the Big 12 openly favors KU basketball in games of importance. Furthermore, the Big 12 tends to assign officials to KU games who are more likely to whip up some “home cooking.”
As pointed out in an article on Monday:
Huggins was just saying what we all want to know, “I don’t know why officials want to be a part of the game but they don’t want to be a part of the game that has to answer…why aren’t they in here answering your questions?”
Sure, Huggins deserved the public reprimand for both his incredibly demonstrative ejection and his pointed criticism of the officials.
He stated that he did not receive a response from officials during his ejection—not that it’s necessarily deserved—but more importantly, there seems to be no real response from the league to correct the problem. In fact, as the previous stat points out, Kansas repeatedly receives more official decisions than a home team normally would.
Huggins asked a fair question and the league’s reprimand is also fair. However, this seems more like the Big 12 dismissing the problem and not resolving it.