ATLANTA — Though Karl Hess was absent, the controversial college basketball official became the focal point of drama on Thursday during the first round of the ACC tournament.
Hess, who on Feb. 18 created an uproar when he ejected former N.C. State greats Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta from their courtside seats during the Wolfpack's 76-62 loss against Florida State at the RBC Center, will not work the ACC tournament this weekend. Three officials on Thursday wore Hess' initials on their shoes.
The strange tribute came during Maryland's 82-60 win over Wake Forest in the opening game of the ACC tournament. The three officials who worked that game - Bernard Clinton, Mike Eades and Jamie Luckie - all taped a small white square with "KH" written in black to their shoes.
The sight created an outcry, especially among N.C. State supporters who felt disrespected by Hess' ejection of Corchiani and Gugliotta, and by their perception of a tepid response from the ACC in the aftermath of that incident. N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow on Thursday declined to comment about the officials' display of Hess' initials.
Pictures of the officials' shoes, though, spread on social media sites and on Internet forums where Wolfpack fans gather. Most shared a similar sentiment of disgust.
Thursday's N.C. State-Boston College game officials - Les Jones, Brian Dorsey and Sean Hull - did not wear "KH" on their shoes.
John Clougherty, the ACC's supervisor of men's basketball officials, declined to comment specifically about the officials' choices in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
"Karl Hess wanted to make sure that he did not take away from the ACC tournament, its teams and the players," Clougherty said in the statement. "Therefore, he made the decision not to participate this year. The officials, as a group, have agreed to respect Karl's decision and will eliminate any further distraction from the tournament."
Clougherty said later that Clinton, Eades and Luckie would not be prohibited from officiating a tournament game involving N.C. State. With a 78-57 victory against Boston College, the fifth-seeded Wolfpack advanced to play No. 4 seed Virginia today at 2:30.
Hess has become a regular at the ACC tournament over the years. He has officiated nine ACC tournament championship games, including each of the past three.