|Official Karl Hess at the NCAA Tournament|
As an official, Hess. He was crew chief for the 2007 NCAA Men's National Championship game between Florida and Ohio State and worked the Final Four in 2008 and 2009, with a Sweet Sixteen matchup in 2010. He has been invited to work the NCAA Tournament annually since 1996.
With such success comes a bounty of naysayers and hecklers; taunting and harassment.
On Saturday, Hess had finally had enough and used the powers vested in him by the NCAA Rules Book to take care of a problem situation.
In Raleigh, North Carolina to work the Florida State vs. N.C. State, Hess began receiving the traditional heckles that fans often bestow upon officials, only the source of this verbal barrage wasn't quite what one might expect.
Former N.C. State Wolfpack star players Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani—who, like Hess, have had their jerseys retired by their alma mater—had taken their seats behind the scorer's table and were allegedly hurling insult after insult toward the officiating crew and Hess in particular.
When traditional heckling gave way to petty insults and abuse that crossed the line, Hess called for the disrespectful fans' removal from the facility. Moments later, stadium security arrived and escorted Gugliotta and Corchiani out of the RBC Center.
Corchiani's belief that heckling and hurling personal insults is part of the daily fan experience is misguided and just plain wrong, though Hess was also incorrect in directly engaging the fans himself. Officials are instructed to consult home game management to address issues with fans that extend beyond the playing court.
Executed properly, Hess would have spoken privately with the N.C. State game operations manager (or another representative at the scorer's table) and left the situation to that person. Instead, Hess bypassed that all-important step and created a perception issue that paints ACC officials in a negative light.
Accordingly, ACC supervisor of officials John Clougherty released the following statement:
Under Rule 10, when circumstances warrant, an official has the authority to request home game management to eject fans when the behavior, in the officials' judgement, is extreme or excessive. It's unfortunate in this instance that ACC protocol of communicating directly with the home game management was not followed, and instead, a building security officer was solicited. We will re-communicate this policy with all officials to ensure proper protocol is followed.Put bluntly, fans need to realize (they won't) that simply attending a game doesn't give them the right to make derogatory comments toward game participants. Values of common decency should never be suspended when one passes through the turnstiles.
Unfortunately, these days, it often is.