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Originally published January 7, 2010 at 6:26 PM | Page modified January 8, 2010 at 2:40 PM

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Refs blew it? NCAA official criticizes dramatic call that cost Cougars a likely win

The controversy over the Oregon-Washington State basketball game last week took a new turn Thursday when a key figure on the NCAA rules committee said an important element wasn't in place for game officials to levy a pivotal technical foul.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The controversy over the Oregon-Washington State men's basketball game last week took a new turn Thursday when a key figure on the NCAA rules committee said an important element wasn't in place for game officials to levy a pivotal technical foul.

Ed Bilik, secretary-editor of the rules committee, told The Times from his office in Georgia that "interference" by fans or players off the bench must impact play directly to warrant a technical.

Referring to the end-of-overtime chaos that turned an apparent WSU victory into an Oregon win, Bilik said, "The ball was never even taken out of bounds. So how could it interfere with continuous play? Basically, there was no interference in terms of the ball being put into play."

Bilik's comments came in the wake of an "end of the game reminder" he issued this week to NCAA officials and published on the NCAA Web site as a result of the WSU-Oregon controversy.

The first part of that advisory says, "When a delay by a jubilant follower(s) or bench personnel before player activity has been terminated does not prevent the ball from being put in play promptly or does not interfere with continuous play, the delay shall be ignored, order shall be restored and play shall be resumed."

The words "ignored," "restored" and "resumed" were underscored.

Upon receiving an explanation earlier from the Pac-10, WSU hadn't pressed the matter further. Thursday, attempts to reach WSU athletic director Jim Sterk and a Pac-10 official were unsuccessful.

Any redress for WSU likely would center on whether the technical is viewed as a judgment call, which would diminish its chances. This week, Pac-10 supervisor of officials Bill McCabe seemed to imply that it wasn't a judgment call when he told The Times, "I've told (officials), if it's a judgment call, I'll back you to the end. I know how hard judgment is. But don't you set aside a rule on me."

Oregon won in two overtimes, 91-89. After DeAngelo Casto broke a tie with three-tenths of a second left in the first overtime to put WSU ahead 80-78, a WSU player on the bench came well onto the floor waving a towel, followed by a fan.

Shortly thereafter, officials stopped play, conferred and levied a technical foul on the Cougars. Tajuan Porter hit both free throws for Oregon and the game went to a second overtime.

Bilik said he taped the game, and the video doesn't show an immediate move by Oregon to try to inbound the ball, which might have created the interference with "continuous play" mandated in the rules for a technical.

"Those people didn't interfere with that throw-in at all," Bilik said. "If the ball isn't prevented from being promptly put into play, the celebration can be ignored. From my perception, never did the Oregon player go out of bounds and become a thrower-in."

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Further muddling the situation is that referee Mike Littlewood, who spoke to reporter Vince Grippi of The Spokesman-Review after the game, cited two passages of the rule book, but not Rules 10-2-9D or 10-6-2H, which address fans and bench players, respectively, improperly entering the court.

John Adams, coordinator of NCAA officials, said Bilik's end-of-game reminder "narrows down the definition of interference with continuous play. I'm supporting the process and the decision the referees used at the end of the game.

"I will not opine on anything other than what they did. They followed the rules and used their judgment and applied the rule."

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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