Louisville's two losses last week, 95-92 to Southern Mississippi and 72-68 to Memphis State, left the Cardinals with a 10-8 record. Despite the efforts of center Pervis Ellison and forward Herb Crook and the sometimes sensational efforts of freshman guard LaBradford Smith, Louisville is facing a repeat of last season's disappointment. As defending NCAA champs, the 1986-87 Cards slogged through a difficult schedule with an 18-14 record and didn't get an NCAA tournament bid. The popular theory on the NCAA's refusal to invite the Cardinals was that it wanted to send a message to the Metro Conference, which had permitted Memphis State, which was on probation, to participate in its postseason tournament. The Tigers won the tournament, and afterward neither Louisville nor any other Metro team was asked to participate in the NCAAs.
Perhaps the Metro didn't get the message: This season it will permit two schools on probation, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, to participate in its 1988 tourney, even though neither will be eligible for the NCAAs. More ominous for teams like Louisville, either the Gamecocks or the Hokies could win the tournament. At week's end, South Carolina was tops in the league with a 4-1 record (13-4 overall), and Tech was a surprising 14-5 for the season.
When Indianapolis radio station WIBC received a call last week from someone claiming to have heard on ESPN that Indiana coach Bob Knight was about to resign, WIBC reported the story as fact—and the state of Indiana went bonkers. Switchboards at newspapers and radio stations lit up all over Hoosierland. One radio station was even reported to have gone so far as to announce that University of Evansville coach Jim Crews would be named as Knight's successor.
The story apparently was touched off by pranksters—ESPN had aired no such report—but it took Knight himself to lay the matter to rest. Asked about the news by the Hoosiers' radio announcer, Don Fischer, Knight said, "I picked up a rumor this afternoon, Don, that the Ohio State game may well be your last broadcast. I heard you are going to Uruguay to be the No. 1 announcer on the Montevideo bullfighting circuit. The key word in this whole thing, Don, is bull."
Louisiana State coach Dale Brown says Knight intimidates officials. Oklahoma's Billy Tubbs says Brown intimidates officials. Pitt's Paul Evans says Georgetown's John Thompson intimidates officials. A week doesn't go by without one coach claiming that another has the refs in his back pocket. But what do the zebras have to say about it? Are certain coaches able to psych them out?
"I think the perception that it happens is much greater than the reality of the situation," says NCAA coordinator of officials Hank Nichols, who wore the stripes for 17 years at the Division I level. "People tend to believe officials are getting browbeaten by the coaches because they hear it on TV. But you get to know which referees are stronger and weaker. If a guy stays weak, he doesn't survive. For most guys, the coaches' antics just become old hat."
ESPN analyst Irv Brown, who spent 25 years as a college official, believes intimidation does occur, particularly with younger refs. Brown recalls working a game during his first season in which Evansville coach Arad McCutchan had him completely bamboozled. "This guy knew he had a rookie," says Brown. "He had me so I didn't know where I was. I didn't know which team had the ball out-of-bounds. I'm sure I gave him 51 percent of the gray area. It's a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. But if you hang around a while, you're not going to get intimidated."