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Duke and the Officials: A Conspiracy Brewing?

Duke and the Officials: A Conspiracy Brewing?
Feb 07, 2006, 01:14 am
Twice a year, that rising storm of Duke-North Carolina mania overtakes College Hoops Nation. That day has come yet again, and tomorrow night’s game promises to be more hotly contest and controversial than ever.

The national media has finally picked up on a story that has been festering in the minds of non-Blue Devil fans for years. Are the officials in bed with Coach K? After two hotly contested wins in which the Blue Devils shot 56 more free throws than their opponents, plenty of fans would now say that they are.

The ACC even chimed in on the issue, suspending the officiating crew that assessed Florida State’s Alexander Johnson a technical for backing away from a hard-charging Shelden Williams, after Johnson’s flagrant foul.

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We all know about the foul sent Johnson to the locker room, cutting short a game in which he was having his way with Shelden Williams.

We all know Blue Devil nation thinks there is no conspiracy, and that the rest of the world is simply bitter that they aren’t quite good enough to be Duke fans.

We all know that Carolina fans collectively think the higher-ups in college basketball decree Coach K the winner long before the actual game begins, and that the entire ACC is rigged to allow for Blue Devil dominance.

We all know that most Duke and Carolina fans spend half their lives on message boards, honestly believing they can convince the other side that they are right.

So Just what kind of conspiracy is afoot here?

I hate to break it to UNC fans, but the NCAA really doesn’t care whether Coach K is the undisputed ruler of the world someday.

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Personally, I don't think there is a devious, masterfully-planned officiating conspiracy. A rational mind can’t deny that Duke usually gets more than their fair share of calls. But good teams usually do. Duke has been pretty good over the last 25 years or so. Smart teams do as well, and the Blue Devils tend to play smarter than most. There is also the undeniable fact that Coach K and his cronies work the officials better than anybody else in the nation. That row of suits is there for intimidation, and it does the trick.

And just so everybody knows, I certainly have strong feelings on the Duke-UNC rivalry. Ever since Christian Laettner broke my heart as a child by hitting the shot to beat that Kentucky team I had grown fond of, Carolina and I were destined for a long a friendship.

But think about this.

Is it just a coincidence that these particularly blatant officiating disparities arise the week before the latest Duke-UNC tilt? What better way to promote the return of Sports’ greatest rivalry than to blow up an officiating controversy days before the event takes place?

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My guess is that by 9:00 tomorrow night, even non-basketball fans are going to have an opinion about Duke-UNC and the officiating, whether they want to or not!

There will be plenty of BC and FSU “foul footage” during the intro. Dick Vitale will criticize any officiating conspiracy ideas as absurd, and somebody (a magnificent return for Brad Daugherty?) will defend the Carolina point of view just as vehemently. And you will be watching!

No matter who wins tomorrow night, the loser is going to complain about the stripes. Forget about the fascinating Shelden Williams-Tyler Hansbrough matchup. If Duke wins, the Tar Heel faithful will whine about Coach K’s plot to take over the world. If Carolina wins, Blue Devil fans everywhere will claim it was a reactionary screw job.

What has been accomplished? Absolutely nothing. The sequel is March 4th. Even more rivalry mania. Even more time for rabid fans to waste company time and blast each other to oblivion on message boards.

So make sure to tune in tomorrow night. A lot has gone into setting the table for this conspiracy, to make absolutely sure that you are watching. How do you think Leonard Hamilton would feel, knowing that he just gave up a chance to save his job, and that you still didn’t tune in?

If you won't watch for poor Leonard, do it for ESPN. They just signed that huge Monday Night Football deal, and are a bit short on cash. They need your support!

Don’t worry, I’ll be glued in front of my television just like everybody else.

I might not even take a bathroom break.

And just for the record: Duke 83, North Carolina 79

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