MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Big 12 reprimanded Bob Huggins on Thursday, five days after West Virginia’s coach said “I’m pissed” about his team’s loss at Allen Fieldhouse in which Kansas enjoyed a now-infamous 35-2 edge in free-throws.
You might be wondering why conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby waited so long to publicly censure Huggins. After all, in the space between Huggins’ postgame comments and the league’s wrist-slap, the Mountaineers actually played and won another game, beating Baylor 71-60 on Tuesday night.
No doubt Bowlsby and Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw needed time to review video. They also had to follow-up with the officiating crew of John Higgins, James Luckie, Keith Kimble that worked the game and ultimately ejected Huggins from it.
I’m told the Big 12 communicated directly with the West Virginia athletics department before the reprimand was released. You’ll recall that Mountaineers AD Shane Lyons started his career as associate commissioner of the Big South and spent nine seasons in the ACC offices, so he understands messaging from a conference-wide perspective.
Here is Bowlsby’s statement:
“There are proper channels within the Conference structure to handle officiating concerns. Coach Huggins’ public comments are contrary to the Conference’s sportsmanship standards.”
West Virginia fans won’t soon forgive the Jayhawks shooting 33 additional free throws, and the reprimand only fueled their displeasure. A couple WVU beat writers who didn’t attend the game fanned the flames by slamming the ruling. (The TV broadcast didn’t capture the frequently tense interactions between the refs and Huggins. Yes, the postgame video was available afterwards, and Bowlsby’s ruling — on its face — admonishes Huggins only for the interview session. But the run-up to his comments impacted things.)
Huggins’ criticism was hardly the most blatant we’ve heard, and thus, the league didn’t fine him. Without harping on specific missed calls or individual officials, he pointedly communicated his dissatisfaction with the foul disparity and its impact on the outcome.
A sampling of Huggins’ ire:
— “I’ve never been in a game like that,” Huggins said. “I’ve never been in a game where the disparity was 35-2.”
— “That can’t happen. You have no chance to win.”
— “There’s something wrong to do that to kids who are playing their hearts out.”
— “The sad part is (the Jayhawks) don’t need it. That’s a good team. They’re very well-coached. They don’t need that. They don’t need somebody to do that.”
He vented, made headlines in doing so, and illuminated the frustrations of many Big 12 coaches when it comes to playing at The Phog. (Those same coaches, I might add, have beefs with the constant grabbing exhibited by “Press Virginia.”)
A reprimand props up the Big 12’s sense of decorum while remaining toothless, considering WVU’s bottom line wasn’t impacted. Huggins’ comments now take their place alongside Baker Mayfield’s crotch grab, Wesley Harris’ postgame swing at a Texas Tech fan and, of course, the K-State marching band ramming the Starship Enterprise into the mouth of Jayhawk.
“I’m not going to say anything from now on,” Huggins said Thursday.
That’s about as likely as saying KU won’t get any more calls at home.