With all the hype surrounding Archie Miller’s hiring this past week, we haven’t had a lot of time to check in on how our friends down in Lexington are doing.
Well, let’s get everyone up to speed.
In the Elite 8, Kentucky faced North Carolina, a team that Indiana somehow defeated earlier this year. It was a back-and-forth affair, but Luke Maye’s game-winning shot with 0.3 seconds remaining sent the Tar Heels to the Final Four, right after Malik Monk had tied the game up. This reaction video shows you all you need to know.
The final seconds of the Kentucky-North Carolina game was an emotional roller coaster for Big Blue fans. #marchmadness #WKYT pic.twitter.com/4AZEFQ8Avi— Lee K. Howard (@HowardWKYT) March 27, 2017
Even before the game ended, however, Wildcats fans had decided on a culprit for the game. No, it wasn’t that UNC just happened to execute a little better on Sunday, or that UK went on a scoreless drought for 4 minutes late in the game, or that a reserve from Australia named Isaac Humphries was singlehandedly keeping the Cats in the game in the second half.
Nope, the problem was the officiating, specifically John Higgins.
Officials have been brutal...— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 26, 2017
Frontrunner to be named MVP of the South Region. pic.twitter.com/ZwhenNEJT6— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) March 26, 2017
The fix is in. It's definitely 5 on 6 with John Higgins trying his best to give UNC the win. Grrrrrr— bigbluehistory (@bigbluehistory) March 26, 2017
Curtis Shaw would be proud. pic.twitter.com/MZfqtN6d5f
UCONN, Wisconsin, UNC are recent Kentucky losses and they have one common denominator...John Higgins. It gets old— Chris Owens (@chris20wens) March 27, 2017
@rexchapman @NCAA hope John Higgins chokes on his dinner.— Michael Williams (@MikeFridays) March 27, 2017
Now look, we’ve done our fair share of complaints about officiating on this site before (a double foul on Bryant and Swanigan? Seriously?), and the overall verdict from Big Ten fans this year was that the refs in the conference were generally Not Good.
And officiating complaints in a close game, especially, are to be expected. John Calipari, who is known for complaining about everything when he isn’t tweeting his deepest thoughts while walking on the beach, had words about the refs immediately after the game ended. And Kentucky Sports Radio, of course, had a Zapruder-style breakdown of all of Higgins’s bad calls about 24 hours after the game ended. That’s all understandable, and I get it.
But this is Kentucky basketball, so of course, everything had to be taken several steps too far.
When you don’t like something, the best way to go about it is to Complain On The Internet. And Kentucky fans have cornered that market. Here’s a Change.org petition that currently has over 12,000(!) signatures, asking to remove John Higgins from any future Kentucky basketball game.
And when he’s not a ref, Higgins owns a roofing company in Omaha, cleverly enough called Rooferees. Until yesterday, that business had a Facebook page. However, UK fans flooded the page with enough one-star reviews that ultimately the page was removed from Facebook. Deadspin has screenshots of some of the more incendiary reviews, if that interests you.
Putting bad reviews on a page is bad enough, but Wildcats fans proved they weren’t done yet. This morning, ESPN reported that some UK fans found Higgins’s unlisted phone number, and barraged it with calls. In addition, Higgins has received death threats since the game ended on Sunday night. It’s gotten bad enough that the referee has had to meet with law enforcement.
Look, we all love to complain about officiating, but this is taking it several bridges too far. I know that losing is no fun, and Kentucky fans take college basketball very seriously. But at the end of the day, it’s just a game, after all. And even KSR thinks Kentucky fans need to put a halt to this.
So listen: when you can’t stop leaving negative reviews on a ref’s business’s Facebook page, or you send death threats to that same ref, then mayyyyybeeeee you have to reassess your priorities a bit.