This exact type of undesired attention, the type of attention that brings the possibility of reprimand, came upon the Sun Belt officiating crew of Thursday's Louisiana-Lafayette's contest at Western Kentucky.
Coming out of a timeout with 21 seconds remaining, Louisiana-Lafayette Guard Raymone Andrews inbounded the ball in front of his own bench to Elfrid Payton, who drained the clock and made a layup with three seconds remaining to give Lafayette a two point lead. Western Kentucky missed a desperation three at the buzzer, as Lafayette held on to win, 72-70.
However, there were a couple of problems that occurred during those final 21 seconds. The first, replays indicate that Lafayette had six players on the court the whole time, which seemingly aided in their final possession. The greater problem was that the fact the infraction went unnoticed by the officials and Lafayette was not penalized at any point.
Once the ball became live, following the time out, Lafayette had committed a violation of NCAA Rule 10-2-6, "having more than five players legally on the playing court to participate after the ball becomes live." Quite clearly from the replay, Lafayette had six individuals on the playing court. The Lafayette substitute is considered a player upon the illegal entry, once the ball became live per Rule 3-4-1c.
The ball became live out of the timeout once the ball was at the disposal of Andrews (the thrower-in) under Rule 6-1-4c. Once this occurred, the infarction had been committed as they had six players on the court during a live ball. The penalty for violating 10-2-6 calls for an administrative technical foul to be called, two free throws awarded to the offended team, and for the ball to be put back into play at the point of interruption. The infraction should be penalized when the violation occurs—when the ball became live.
Along with seemingly everyone else (except a few observant spectators), the officials failed to notice that an infraction had occurred once the ball was at the disposal at Andrews nor did they notice during Lafayette's final possession (or Western Kentucky's for that matter). Had they noticed this infraction at any point, they could have penalized Lafayette, awarding two free throws to Western Kentucky.
By the time the officials had noticed something was wrong, time had expired and the ball was dead. Although officials still possessed jurisdiction over the game, as they had not left the playing confines, they could no longer penalize Lafayette. Once the ball was dead, there was no infraction occurring and the failure to penalize such an infraction is not a correctable error under Rule 2-12-1. Even as Western Kentucky players and coaches began to realize what happened, the officials had no longer had the ability to penalize Lafayette. Had the officials properly penalized Lafayette immediately at the moment of infraction, Western Kentucky would have been awarded two free throws, ad the ball would be put back into play at the point of interruption—Lafayette inbounding the ball, where it first became live.
The Sun Belt coordinator of officials, Mike Wood, had observed the video and stated as much, that there were six players on the court, but it was not a correctable error. Wood said to ESPN.com's Andy Katz that they were going to look into what action the conference would take. Such action could include, according to Katz, that the "officials could sit for a game or more." The crew was comprised of three veteran officials, all multi-conference officials, that Wood described as "a good crew."
A simple oversight was made that can be made by any official. The mistake stresses the importance for all officials (including a good crew) on the court to ensure all things are in order before making the ball live, such as counting players. Officials cannot take for granted that each team will have the proper number of players on the court because it may not always be the case.