By now, you’ve seen the video.
As Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin argued a call in his team’s loss at UConn on Saturday, veteran official Ted Valentine — TV Teddy — reacted by getting into Cronin’s face along the sideline. That set Cronin off, as the diminutive coach began shoving players and staff members out of the way to try and get in the last with Valentine.
There’s no question that Valentine was wrong here. Anyone can understand the difficulty in allowing someone to berate you without responding, but officials simply cannot react the way that Valentine did. And do his credit, he apologized afterwards. “I was just totally wrong. I was out of place by walking into his space,” Valentine told SI.com. “It was just one of those situations where I got caught up in the moment. I was out of bounds because I walked into his domain. That’s why I didn’t give him a technical because I knew I was wrong, and two wrongs don’t make a right. If it had been 15, 16 years ago, I never would have caught myself like that.”
The more interesting discussion, however, is the sideline behavior of our sport’s head coaches. This was not the first time that a head coach’s run-in with an official went viral. There was Jim Boeheim’s ejection at Duke last weekend. Earlier this season, both Kevin Ollie of UConn and Fran McCaffery of Iowa lost their minds and got ejected from a game.
“I think there’s a lack of humility with the way referees are addressed, the way with they’re dealt with in games,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “We’ve got a unique problem. Coaches in the NBA behave better than coaches in college, who claim to be teachers and molders of young men. How can that possibly be?
“Everybody needs to take a look in the mirror here and fix our behavior, including in press conferences where we are questioning the officiating and we are denigrating the product to the public, and public confidence in the job the officials are doing. … If we think that coach behavior influences the officials, then that’s a competitive advantage and we need to put a stop to it. If we don’t think it’s an influence, then it looks horrible and it erodes public confidence in officiating and we need to stop it. So tell me how we don’t need to stop it. We have to stop it. The coaches have to take the lead and police themselves.”
And to a point, he’s right.
In no other sport is it acceptable for coaches to continually berate officials the way that college basketball coaches do it.
But if you listen to Cronin, there is a reason this happens.
“My beef with that is guys like Mick Cronin and Buzz Williams (of Marquette) of the world, we deal with some of it,” Cronin told ESPN after the game. “When nobody gets in the Jim Boeheim’s face or Mike Krzyzewski’s face.”
“The truth is that in college basketball, it’s not equitable. Coaches are treated differently. Officials in different leagues officiate differently,” Cronin added to SI.com. “If Seth Davis is the coach at New York State and he’s going against Jim Boeheim, his fans feel like they don’t get respect so they blow up the blogs and say they want a veteran coach. You can’t sit there and not make sure you’re getting equality. And by the way, neither can Jim Boeheim. Jim Calhoun didn’t build UConn in the ’80s by letting Rollie, Louis and Big John get all the calls.”
Former coach and current ESPN analyst Dan Dakich agrees with Cronin.
“The biggest little dirty secret in college basketball is when Bowling Green goes to play at Michigan, Michigan and the Big Ten pays officials twice what the MAC does,” Dakich said on ESPN’s Outside The Lines. “Who do you think that official is going to aside with? He’s going to side with the coach at Michigan or the coach at Indiana as it pertains to a MAC coach or a Horizon League coach.”
“Guys want Krzyzewski on their side. Guys want Boeheim on their side. I 1000% agree with what Mick Cronin said. It’s not even close. I used to tell [Bobby Knight], ‘Stand up, we need some travels.'”