Luke DeCock

NCAA dodged bullet when confetti flew early

Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono (15) celebrates after their 77-74 victory over UNC in the finals of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Monday, April 4, 2016.
Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono (15) celebrates after their 77-74 victory over UNC in the finals of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Monday, April 4, 2016. rwillett@newsobserver.com

It was pretty clear in real time that Kris Jenkins’ game-winner beat the clock Monday night – the ball was already on its way down when the horn sounded and the lights on the backboard lit – but it was close enough that the three officials wanted to check the replay monitor to be sure.

By the time they got there, they were already covered in the confetti that exploded from the scoreboard to celebrate Villanova’s title almost immediately after Jenkins’ shot went through the hoop. It would have been an incredible embarrassment for the NCAA if Jenkins hadn’t gotten the shot off in time, with the court needing to be cleared before overtime – not to mention all the Villanova fans who took the confetti as a signal to rush past ineffective security and storm the court and its surroundings.

In the annals of game operations, it was a huge miscue, unleashing the confetti before the officials had officially declared the game over. NRG Stadium and the NCAA dodged a real bullet when it turned out Jenkins’ shot was indeed good upon review.

In the immediate aftermath, College Football Playoff chief operating officer Michael Kelly sent an email to his staff reminding them to always await the officials’ final decision before triggering the postgame celebrations. He also planned to make an addition to the CFP’s postgame protocol: blowers to quickly clear the field of confetti if it were to be prematurely released.

The ACC drops balloons at its women’s basketball championship and uses confetti for football and men’s basketball. On the day of each championship, the conference conducts a walk-through with all staff involved in the postgame ceremony – from awards and security to hats/T-shirts and confetti – and timing and cues are part of the discussion.

That’s standard industry practice, but ACC senior associate commissioner Amy Yakola said Monday’s events highlight the importance of digging into every detail.

“We would continue our process, which has served us well,” Yakola said. “No question, it’s a teachable moment.”

David Worlock, director of media coordination and statistics for the NCAA, said the organization regularly evaluates how well the tournament is working.

“Every year we review every aspect of the tournament, from the start of the selection process through the postgame protocol for the title game. That will again be the case this year.”

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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