RALEIGH — Chris Corchiani earned the nickname "Fire" for his ebullient personality when he played point guard for N.C. State. But in 124 college basketball games, Corchiani never got ejected. Twenty-one years after his last college game, that changed on Saturday.
With 6 minutes and 40 seconds left in N.C. State's 76-62 loss to Florida State on Saturday, head referee Karl Hess had Corchiani and fellow former Wolfpack great Tom Gugliotta removed from their front-row seats behind the scorers' table.
About two hours after the game, he was still looking for a reason why Hess stopped the game and asked him and Gugliotta to leave their seats.
"I'd like to know why it happened," Corchiani said. "You could hear us, there's no doubt you could hear us, and we said something about three or four different times, but not once did we use profanity and we never threatened him."
Corchiani didn't know if Hess, who had two Raleigh police officers and an arena security guard help him confront the two former players, had the right to ask him to leave but he said he didn't want to make a scene.
"At that point, you don't want to create a situation," Corchiani said. "So we left."
According to NCAA rules, the game officials have the authority to "eject unruly fans." Rule 10, Section 2, Article 9 of the NCAA rulebook reads:
"When the misconduct of the followers is extreme or excessive, such behavior may be penalized by the official requesting home/contest management to eject from the premises the team followers involved in the misbehavior. In such a case, a technical foul shall not be assessed."
The rule continues:
"Game officials, by virtue of their elastic power have the authority to eject unruly fans. In instances where fan, player or official safety is not an issue, or the conduct and administration of the game is not threatened, we have requested that officials permit management an opportunity to address unruly fan behavior prior to issuing an ejection."
After the game, Hess declined to offer for an explanation for his decision. He said "no comment" when asked by an Associated Press reporter about the incident. Reached by phone after the game, ACC head of officials John Clougherty also declined comment.
After the game, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow asked the ACC for an explanation and said she talked with commissioner John Swofford and associate commissioner Karl Hicks.
"We want to make sure our fans are being treated fairly," Yow said.
The ACC issued a statement at 9:32 p.m. which stated that Hess followed the rule but not the protocol of the rule, which was to permit the game management, or an N.C. State official, to address Corchiani and Gugliotta before they were ejected.
"We will re-communicate this policy with all officials to ensure proper protocol is followed," Clougherty said in the statement issued by the league.
An ACC spokeswoman said the statement stands as the conference's response and any possible punishment for Hess would be handled internally.
Corchiani, who ended his career in 1991 as the NCAA leader in career assists (1,038) regularly attends Wolfpack games. Corchiani and Gugliotta, an All-ACC forward for the Wolfpack, played from 1989 to '92 and later an NBA All-Star, both have their jerseys honored in the RBC Center rafters. They went to N.C. State's practice on Friday and talked with the current players.
Corchiani was sitting next to his wife, Stewart, and his daughter, Annabelle, 11, on Saturday. He said there wasn't anything out of the ordinary in his reaction to some of the foul calls made during the game.
"We were just fans, cheering and yelling like everybody else," Corchiani said.
After Hess' confrontation with Corchiani and Gugliotta, N.C. State briefly cut into what was a 20-point Florida State lead in the second half. The atmosphere in the arena was noticeably livelier after Corchiani and Gugliotta walked off the court and watched the remainder of the game from the tunnel leading to the N.C. State locker room.
Scott Wood scored six straight points to cut FSU's advantage to 59-47 with 6:11 left in the game, but that was as close as the Pack would get.
"If State would have come back and won, for me, it would have been worth it," Corchiani said.