For years, Ted Valentine has been the most conspicuous zebra in college basketball. As NCAA tournament players and teams prepares to tip-off, it’ll be impossible to spot Valentine as he finds himself in the same position as so many unlucky bubble teams, on the outside looking in.
After officiating his 10th Final Four in 2017, Valentine was informed by NCAA coordinator of officials J.D. Collins, prior to Saturday’s American Athletic Conference semifinal game that he wouldn’t be working any 2018 NCAA tournament games. In his own words to ESPN, Valentine believes that his exclusion from the tournament schedule stems from his decision to turn his back to North Carolina guard Joel Berry II during an ACC game at Florida State in January.
As Berry approached Valentine, 59, to discuss a call the referees appeared to miss, Valentine folded his arms and turned his back to face the stands until Berry walked away. In response, the Big Ten, which has been where Valentine officiateted the majority of games during his career, removed him from two games. That punishment prompted Valentine to tell The Athletic that he was considering retirement due to the excessive criticism coming his way.
After reconciling with Berry in person before a game in late January, Valentine felt blindsided by his banishment from tournament officiating during the 2018 tournament.
“This is not right, it’s just not fair,” Valentine told ESPN. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m being punished unjustly.”
“I asked him [Collins] why,” Valentine said. “We talked about the Joel Berry situation and how he had a discussion with the Big Ten. But I told him, ‘I fixed the situation.'”
However, Collins refutes Valentine’s account telling ESPN, “I do not disclose selections, assignments or advancements. That’s not fair to anyone.”
Of course, none of this drama should be that surprising development. Valentine has worked 28 tournaments and four national championships, but has also earned the derisive nickname “TV Teddy” because of his over the top theatrics and combative personality. He went nose-to-nose with Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin in 2014 and argued with Bobby Knight after ejecting the Indiana coach in 1998.
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