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No Rematch With Bucknell, But Full Weekend Slate

The debate may continue, but Lehigh won't be playing on Saturday as the men's basketball teams' season came to a bitter end late last night. The Patriot League issued a statement and appeared to take Lehigh's appeal very seriously, but in the end, as the Morning Call's Andre Williams mentioned today, ended on a technical point which shows that the officials did indeed follow the rules, even though the error was acknowledged.

''We thoroughly reviewed all of the available information, including the applicable NCAA rules and the broadband feed, and it appears that the shot left the player's hand after the clock expired,'' Carolyn Femovich, the Patriot League's executive director, said in a statement. ''The fact that the official's decision on the last-second shot impacted the outcome of the game is regrettable.

''There was a veteran officiating crew working the game. We expect game officials to manage the game according to the rules, and be held accountable for their actions.''

Lehigh coach Billy Taylor and his staff, appalled that the officials refused to review the play, appealed before Mickey Crowley, the coordinator of officials for the Patriot League and Ivy League.

''It's heartbreaking to have to go into your senior student- athletes, Jose Olivero, Kyle Neptune, Jason Mgebroff, Adam Hyncik, guys who have given themselves to Lehigh for four years, who have to end their career in that manner,'' he said. ''It's just very, very heartbreaking.

''As a coach you certainly don't want to be in that situation when you have to walk into that locker room and try to explain to your team how you lost a game that you really think that you won.''

According to Mike Stagnitta, Lehigh's men's basketball sports information director, assistant Mountain Hawks coach Brad Szalachowski, drove a burned VCR copy of the disputed play to Crowley in Long Island, arriving around 3 a.m. Thursday. Crowley then consulted with the Patriot League's Tournament Committee, which then held a conference call with Patriot League athletic directors.

''After consultation with Mickey Crowley, Patriot League Coordinator of Basketball Officials, and the Secretary-Rules Editor of the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee, it was determined that the ruling to maintain the outcome of the game should be based on Rule 2, Section 5 Article 1 of the NCAA Basketball Rules and Interpretations,'' the Patriot League said in a statement. ''This rule states that officials may use official courtside replay equipment, videotape or television monitoring that is located on a designated courtside table. Given that the game was not televised, and that the Internet equipment at courtside had not been designated as an official replay monitor, it was not permissible for the officials to use the Internet feed to review the end of game situation.''

Lehigh vehemently disagrees with that assessment.

''It's streaming video, but they called it Internet video,'' Stagnitta said. ''Yes, there wasn't a designated replay monitor set before the game, but because it was a Patriot League Tournament game, the Patriot League should have done that, and not Lehigh.''

''I certainly had a different perspective being there live,'' Taylor said. ''It's disappointing that that was a judgment call, and the judgment remained. I don't think it was the correct call. It's something that we are left to deal with, and it's time to move on.''

What to make of all of this? I can't blame coach Taylor for being upset. I highlighted what he said because I think he voices what my opinion is on the matter: Get the call right should be the first priority. Of course he's correct that the call wasn't the right call - the streaming video shows that to be the case. But for the league, this case ended up not being about the correct call and instead ended up being about referee's discretion and judgement. The referees' on-court judgement - wrong as it was - was allowed to stand because that's the way the rules were written. The streaming video wasn't pre-designated as a tool that the referees could use, though in all other ways it was consistent with something that they could have used.

Should Patriot League officials have designated it an official replay device? Lehigh's SID thinks so from the quoted article. Was it used in other first-round games? Did the fact that the tournament was being played at home venues have something to do with the fact that details like this weren't firmed up? Maybe; but for the Lehigh basketball team, it's all moot. Their season is over, and had they played better defense the last four seconds on Wednesday, I'd be spilling a lot less virtual ink on this.

I think the legacy of this play will mean that in the future streaming video will be designated by the league as an official means of reviewing calls. That's not much consolation to the four seniors on the team who are denied a chance at playing Bucknell this weekend. But the decision has been made, and it is time to move on.

...But A Full Weekend Slate
The Lehigh women's basketball team will be trying to pull the upset as the #7 seeded Lady Hawks will be facing #2 Army in the first round of the Patriot League tournament on Saturday at 4:00PM. Army (24-5, 11-3) will be a tough upset candidate, though the Lady Hawks gave them a good fight last month in Stabler, falling by a 77-71 margin. The women's tournament has a history of some wacky upsets, though, so hopefully they'll be one more this weekend.

The wrestling team has already started to make its way through the preliminaries of the EIWA championships this morning, as Lehigh looks for its unprecedented sixth-straight title. With David Craig nabbing a #1 seed at 184 and Matt Ciasulli and Paul Weibel getting #2 seeds at 141 and heavyweight respectively, Lehigh seems poised to make a run at defending last year's EIWA title. But Harvard, Penn, Navy and Cornell won't make it easy with some tough competitiors of their own with #1 seeds in all the other weight classes save one.

One weight class to look at is 125, where Lehigh's Matt Fisk is a #3 seed and hoping to make it through his bracket to set up a rematch of last year's final. If he can make it through - including possibly upending #3 seed Matthew Eveleth - we could see a rematch for a potential final against last year's champion, Cornell's Troy Nickerson.

More interesting matchups include a potential rematch of Lehigh's #2 Matt Ciasulli and Harvard's #1 Max Meltzer at 141, and Lehigh #1 seed David Craig potentially facing off against Harvard's #2 Louis Caputo - who won at Lehigh on a first-period takedown.

Add to that, Lehigh will certainly want to exact some revenge from their dual loss to Navy earlier in the year. A Paul Weibel/Ed Prendergast bout was extremely close, but ultimately went in Prendergast's favor.

So many compelling storylines here. And don't forget we're looking to qualify wrestlers for the NCAA championships in two weeks. Certainly worth following this weekend.


Anonymous said…
I was at the basketball game im not that made they the call was blown beacuse the refs had to call it as a bang-bang play. But what makes me most mad is the fact that the refs and the army players ran off the court and didnt even wait to come to a final conclusion. The army team and the refs should be repremanded for their actions of poor sportsmanship, they needed to stay on the court and review the situation with both coaches. unacceptable
Ngineer said…
I agree. I was there, too. To see the refs run for cover to the locker room, and then the Army players to run off without shaking hands was unbelievable, considering the institution. very bad form...
Anonymous said…
Tha Army is not what it used to be. The coach of that team should be fired for that display. What a jerk
Anonymous said…
I'm a Lehigh fan.

Bottom line is the referees are always right. They are taught to leave after making a decision. ... kind of like cops don't hang around to answer questions after arresting a kidnapping suspect.

Taylor ought to be ashamed of himself. What kind of lesson does this send to the kids? It's great he supports his kids, but the refs are always right ...

If Lehigh deserved to win the game, it could have done so before the game got so close.

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