Ref head: St. John's end 'unacceptable'

Updated: March 10, 2011, 9:44 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The failure of Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton to officiate until the final buzzer of the St. John's-Rutgers Big East second-round game Wednesday at Madison Square Garden was "unacceptable," the head of the NCAA's officiating told ESPN.com.

John Adams, the national coordinator of men's basketball officiating, is in charge of selecting and managing the 98 officials for the NCAA tournament. He said whether Burr, Higgins and Walton advance to work the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament "is not my business."

St. John's beat Rutgers 65-63 Wednesday. But Rutgers should have had one more shot attempt to tie or win because the Red Storm's Justin Brownlee stole a pass from Rutgers' Gilvydas Biruta but then traveled while celebrating and then stepped out of bounds with 1.7 seconds remaining on the clock, according to the ESPN broadcast. Brownlee then hurled the ball in the stands as his coach, Steve Lavin, was walking down the sideline to shake Rutgers coach Mike Rice's hands. The officials had exited the court.

"Not officiating to the end of a game is unacceptable," Adams said.

Rice said he saw a replay on YouTube.

"There was a mistake made," he said. "I'm sure they'll admit it. I made several mistakes, my players made several mistakes. I'm sure our staff made several mistakes."

Adams, reached by phone in Indianapolis where he is sequestered with the men's basketball selection committee for the remainder of the weekend, hadn't seen the video of the final seconds of the game but was going to discuss it with Big East coordinator of officials Art Hyland upon hearing the play-by-play of the final seconds.

"And then we'll notify the guys sometime Sunday if they're working or not," Adams said.

Adams said that officials are selected, much like teams for the NCAA tournament, on the basis of their body of work from the season, not just one call or one game.

"One bad call doesn't knock a guy out of the NCAA tournament," Adams said.

[+] EnlargeJustin Brownlee
AP Photo/Mary AltafferSt. John's player Justin Brownlee said he didn't realize he was out of bounds when he threw the ball into the stands in the closing seconds Wednesday.

Adams said once officials start the NCAA tournament they are judged on advancement in each round based on the NCAA performance, not regular season or postseason. Adams wouldn't discuss Higgins or Walton but said about Burr, "he has had an exceptional year. He has been enforcing the freedom of movement and working his tail off physically. I expect to see him in the tournament. I hope he makes the cut. I have no comment on the other two."

Adams said the only way the play could have been reviewed is if the officials had made a call of traveling or out of bounds and the clock kept running.

"You can't review on the monitor and then see a violation while watching the replay," Adams said. "If they had made a call then the proper protocol would have been to go to the monitor to check the time. Not starting or stopping the clock is reviewable at the end of a game [or half]. Clearly if you call a violation then that's a reason to go to the monitor. But it's all predicated on seeing and recognizing a violation."

Big East commissioner John Marinatto released a statement after the game.

"The Big East Conference acknowledges that two separate officiating errors occurred at the conclusion of the St. John's vs. Rutgers game," he said. "Both missed violations should have caused the game clock to stop and a change of possession to occur prior to the end of the game. Neither error is reviewable or correctable under NCAA playing rules."

Adams said there wouldn't have been a technical foul called for Brownlee throwing the ball in the stands.

"There is no penalty for exuberance if the kid thought it was the end of the game," Adams said. "It's his ball and he's not delaying anything. Also the coaches are walking toward each other. There was a presumption that the game was over but unfortunately it doesn't sound like it was."

Brownlee was asked if he did step out of bounds in front of the scorer's table.

"A couple of people said I did but I didn't realize I was out of bounds," he said. "But fortunately it doesn't matter now. I thought time had expired. It was so loud and stuff so I just threw it."

Rice said he was proud of how his team controlled its reactions.

"It is what it is," he said. "Can't control what happens, you can control how you respond, and these guys responded like men."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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