An ejection and the aftermath: the Big 12’s officiating problem

Kelvin Sampson was ejected from the Oklahoma State game on Tuesday night after going inside the arc on the opposite side of the court to argue a no-call. Sampson intended to get tossed, as this was a startling departure from his normal behavior. He said after the game that the last time he was tossed in college was probably a Washington State game at UCLA.

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The double-technical sequence did not start with Kelvin running on the court to prove a point. It did not start with the two (three?) offensive fouls underneath by Oklahoma State’s center, Brandon Garrison, on Ja’Vier Francis. None of those were called. It did not start with John-Michael Wright fouling Francis on UH’s possession before that. That was not called, either.

Even though Kelvin begged for it.

Sampson after Francis did not get a call on the offensive end // Photo © 2024 by Mario Puente

At the time of the ejection, with 15:07 to play in the second half, UH led by 20. That fact had no bearing on his actions, despite national media harping on it. The issue was that, in less than five minutes, J’Wan Roberts had fouls number three and four called, Jamal Shead picked up two, and Ja’Vier Francis, mauled on both ends of the court, got his third.

In addition, JoJo Tugler had picked up three in the first half. The refs had put Houston’s entire frontcourt in the lurch while calling it loose on the other end.

This wasn’t a man up 20 points going crazy. It was a 35-year head coach protecting his guys. It surprised them in the moment, as you can tell by the reaction from Emanuel Sharp:

Emanuel’s shocked face // Photo © 2024 by Mario Puente

Sampson was standing up for Baylor’s Scott Drew and Mack Rhoades at Baylor but also his own players. He used egregious no-calls to shine a light on the poor state of officiating in the conference.

Big 12 Vice President of Men’s Basketball John Williams oversees all hoops happenings, including the officiating program. He was in the press box for the game, watching another game on his phone, and did not take particular interest in what was occurring on the court below him. He left shortly after that, presumably to protect his officials and/or speak with Sampson.

UH fans have Kelvin’s back // Photo © 2024 by Mario Puente

In the moment, coaches are irate about officiating. But they really want consistency – from one half to the other, from one situation to the other, and at both ends of the court. Call it on us, call it on them; no call on us, no call on them. If it’s a foul 3 minutes into the game, it’s a foul an hour later. If it’s a foul in a tie game, it should be a foul in a 20-point game.

Sampson has acknowledged this year that he won’t get a lot of calls up 20+. But should a team down 20+ keep getting those calls?

Should referee Tony Padilla, working his seventh game in the last eight days, be crisscrossing the country from Texas to Florida to West Virginia to Arizona to a late OT game in Kansas to Texas? Should the Big 12 condone him working one night in Orlando and the next night in Seattle (as happened in January)? Or working in Morgantown, WV, on a Saturday and then Tucson, Arizona, the next night (as happened this weekend)?

Only Sampson knows his true intentions, but plenty of things in the world of college basketball refereeing should come out into the open. The Big 12 has an officiating problem: Mack Rhoades lit the match of awareness, and Kelvin Sampson just threw gasoline on the fire.