1989: ‘Worst Call in NCAA Tournament History’

NC State takes the floor a few minutes after noon today for a huge NCAA Tournament match-up against the Georgetown Hoyas today. Before you go any further, we ask that you check out today’s Gameday Headlines (linked here) and SFN’s unique game preview (linked here).

For a set of bloggers that pride themselves on a having broad perspective and set of experiences that extend much longer than many in the ‘new media’ that dominate most sports coverage today, there was no way for a Wolfpack-Hoyas match-up to unfold without mention and discussion of one of the more painful experiences in NC State Basketball history. (So, you KNOW that it HAD to be bad!!)

With that said, we are reprising an entry from more than five years ago focused on Rick Hartzell’s gut wrenching mistake that cost the Wolfpack a chance to match-up with a Duke Blue Devils squard (that we had already beaten) for a shot to advance to the Final Four in 1989.

JP Giglio of the News & Observer added a little modern day spin to this painful chapter in this article yesterday.

With 1:47 left, and the Wolfpack down three, Corchiani drove down the left side of the lane and dropped in a shot over Mourning, Georgetown’s dominant center. Instead of a potential three-point play, and a fifth foul on Mourning, Hartzell called a travel on Corchiani.

“There it is!” CBS analyst Billy Packer said during the broadcast of the game, in reference to Mourning’s fifth foul.

After Hartzell’s call becomes clear, Packer was incredulous.

“Nowhere near a walk,” Packer said.

Corchiani made peace with the call before the start of the 1989-90 season. Hartzell worked a preseason game at Reynolds Coliseum and, according to Corchiani, apologized to him and former coach Jim Valvano for getting the call wrong.

The memory is painful for us all. But, when you want to know why NC State fans may have a history of complaining about officiating…well…watch it for yourself.

— The following entry originally ran on SFN on February 27, 2007 —
This one is very painful. It has been discussed numerous times in various entries on SFN in the past. This is the 1989 NCAA Sweet 16 game in the Meadowlands, NJ vs Georgetown where NC State had battled back from a 16 point halftime deficit to sit on the verge of a breakthrough. Georgetown was shell-shocked and Alonzo Mourning had four fouls. So, what does one of the smartest point guards in NCAA history do? He attacks the foul-prone big man, of course!!

For everyone that ‘hates’ on Billy Packer (we are trying to get hip here at SFN)…you have to give Packer credit for calling this play before it even happened. Additionally, he never hesitated to criticize the horrible call at the very moment that it happened. A little later, Packer referred to the call as “the worst call in NCAA Tournament history”. (A little more on Packer here)

“Nowhere near a walk. Should have been a good basket and a foul. No steps at all. Not even close! “

It was my senior year in high school and I was watching this game from Emerald Isle with a bunch of friends, including my closest friend who earlier that week had rebuffed admission into both Duke and Davidson to attend NC State (for engineering). I was pumped!! Just a week or two earlier, I had learned that I had fallen short in the final round of the Morehead Scholarship and therefore was choosing to follow my fathers’ footsteps to NC State over UNC, Duke and Wake Forest. This was supposed to be our big weekend of what it would be like in college pulling for our new school through to a Final Four appearance!! We were so pumped about experiencing some “college success” even before we got to college!

But, Atlantic Coast Conference Official, Rick Hartzell had other ideas. Hartzell’s call was SO OBVIOUSLY BAD…and SO PISS POOR that he later apologized to Coach Valvano and the Wolfpack . (Hartzell is the Athletics Director at the University of Northern Iowa and still officiates college basketball.) The apology obviously rang hollow…and speculation around HOW someone could make such a call wasn’t helped by the odd circumstances surrounding the call.

Eighteen years later, many fans remember. On an entry on StateFans last month, Hartzell’s name was discussed and a member of our community shared:

I don’t hate many people but to this day, I hate Rick Hartzell because I didn’t believe then and I don’t believe now that a ref can make a call that bad without there being some ulterior motive. I think he made the call on purpose to control the outcome of that game.

You see, Hartzell’s officiating was mired with fan criticism of his bias towards Coach K and Duke. (This was BEFORE Duke became what you know them as today). Hartzell seemed to pop-up at every major Blue Devil game in Cameron Indoor. In an annual preseason magazine that was THE BEST around, Barry Jacobs’ used to detail the records of ACC teams in games officiated by every official in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It was awesome stuff. And, the stats indicated that Duke’s winning percentage in games officiated by Rick Hartzell was significantly higher than Duke’s winning percentage in games not officiated by Hartzell.

Why is this relevant to Hartzell’s obvious travesty in NC State’s game vs Georgetown? Because, State’s next opponent after defeating the Hoyas on that Friday night was to be…you guessed it…Duke; whom State had already defeated earlier in the season and would have to face a Jim Valvano squad that clearly had its ‘March Motor’ running. Nobody wanted to face that; and everybody in the country knew it.

Flashback Headscratchers NCS Basketball Tradition

85 Responses to 1989: ‘Worst Call in NCAA Tournament History’

  1. TNCSU 03/01/2007 at 2:06 PM #

    ^^^It makes me wonder how anyone can EVER see Packer is biased against us. He repeatedly says (and usually works into the Final Four broadcast) that:

    1) David Thompson was the best college BB player ever.

    2) The Corch travel against Georgetown was the worst NCAAT call ever.

    3) The 1974 NC State/MD ACCT final was the best college game ever.


    Let’s add…

    4) The 1983 NC State Wolfpack National Championship was the “START” of March Madness!!

  2. Wufpacker 03/02/2007 at 4:41 AM #

    Oh man, was so mad that night. 18 years later it still gets me a little steamed. That team was on a roll and could have gone all the way if they had gotten past GTown. Knowing Mourning had 4 fouls and taking it at him…Thats the kind of PG we need, and that we haven’t had in way too long. Didn’t pay off for Corch that nite (big thanks to Rick Hartzell from Coach K) but he was effective with that sorta thing more often than not. Can’t tell you how many times he’d draw a foul just by bringing the ball up court and unexpectedly stopping/slowing down around midcourt allowing a trailing defender, usually a big man, to run up his backside.

    Agree with the earlier poster who mentioned the mugging of Rodney in the far corner and the convenient no call. Hell, I’m surprised they didn’t go ahead and call it out off of Rodney and give Gtown the ball at that point and just get it over with.

  3. packfanATL 03/02/2007 at 4:44 PM #

    what a painful memory. I, too, was on spring break at myrtle beach watching this game. correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Monroe had scored 40 against Iowa in the 2nd round game. for years after this game, I had it in my mind that Clougherty had made this truly HORRIBLE call. was Clougherty also officiating this game?

  4. wufpup76 03/29/2009 at 8:34 AM #

    Still hurts today … I remember almost putting a hole in the floor from jumping up and stomping on the floor several times.

    That was it. The last time we were really a threat … we would’ve met Duke in the regional final.

  5. TheCOWDOG 03/29/2009 at 9:31 AM #

    Thanks for the memories…not!

    I was in Big Bear,Ca. and was so livid that to prevent doing damage to the cabin, I jumped off the deck into a snow bank at least 10′ down.

    The other couples we were with thought surely I had completely lost my mind.

    My wife totally understood.

  6. Sweet jumper 03/29/2009 at 10:36 AM #

    I was visiting friends in Richmond that weekend and they are huge UNX fans. They were pulling hard for the Pack because they wanted Duke to go down and they wanted State to be the one to take them down in the Eastern Regional Finals. That was, is and probably always will be the worst call in the history of the NCAA tourney. That was one helluva a backcourt that V recruited. It is a shame that the younger posters have no recollection of the 50’s(my Dad told me about the 50’s and early 60’s), the 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s when the Pack was relevant, respected and even feared.

  7. RickJ 03/29/2009 at 10:37 AM #

    Brown, Howard, Lester, Corch & Monroe started this game. I don’t think we have a single player in our program that could break into this starting five.

  8. Wolf Dog 03/29/2009 at 11:26 AM #

    No doubt a bad call. A magazine and cannot remember the name of it used to put out a preseason ACC hoops edition. Best I had ever seen, it had stats on the refs. I recall Lirtz didn’t fair so well in regards to calling Wolfpack games.

    Amzing how much influence V had on the college game. The 2 shot foul rule after 10 fouls. Regional games were not played on home courts or in a teams back yard after we lost to Kanses in the final 8. The way refs are assigned to tournament games, etc.

    The Gtown game and the Kansas game really stick out in my mind as what if games. We had a lead, that Kansas crowd stood up and started chanting Rock Chalk Jay Hawk…. and according to V by the time Shackleford explained what they were saying to Washburn we had lost.

    Yea it is a shame we have not been the same program since the days of Case, Sloan, and V. Under V in ten years a national championship, 2 ACC titles, 2 Elite 8’s, a first place reg season finish, and reg trips to the NCAA tournament.

    We can get their again! We have the largest school in the state, the facilities, the fan base, the attendance, the money, top alumni club, etc… We a top program in everything but the win column.

  9. 61Packer 03/29/2009 at 11:32 AM #

    That indeed was one of the worst calls ever in the history of the NCAA tourney, but there is another one Kansas fans will say was even worse- the call against Jo Jo White when he supposedly stepped out of bounds before scoring a basket that might have won the game for KU against Texas Western in the 1966 NCAA regionals.

    To me, an even worse call than the above two went against 16th-seed Princeton in their 1991 NCAA tourney opener vs Georgetown. Leading 50-49, Georgetown’s Alonzo Mourning whacked Kit Mueller as he tried to shoot in the final seconds. It was obvious Mueller was whacked but no call was made. Princeton, a billion to one shot per USA Today in this tourney, had been bullied and battered and bloodied the entire game by the bully tactics of the Hoyas and their coach, John Thompson, who is in my opinion the biggest asshole ever to coach in college. Pete Carril, one of the best coaches I ever saw, was gracious in defeat, but Princeton was robbed. That was the worst call I ever saw in college basketball, period.

  10. wufpup76 03/29/2009 at 11:42 AM #

    ^61Packer, that was actually the very same season … 1989

    I agree that Princeton was clearly the better team in that game.

    G’Town was the beneficiary of numerous calls in that tournament until they ran into Duke … go figure.

  11. PoppaJohn 03/29/2009 at 12:59 PM #

    SFN, thanks for that link, I hated it, but it was a joy to see that team again. I saw DT play and Rodney and cannot think of anyone else I ever enjoyed as much. Both were so incredibly comfortable on the court. Both had amazing point guards to get them the ball. I can’t remember many players ever that would shoot a three pointer on a fast break, but Rodney would. He was that good. And that triple overtime win against Wake!
    That was the last time I ever remember thinking we were a Final Four team. And I always believed that if V got them to the Final Four, the trophy was ours.

  12. Pano Fasoulas 03/29/2009 at 1:17 PM #

    I also remember that game. I was at Myrtle Beach for “Bud Fest” and in a hotel room packed to the gills with State fans. I also seem to remember Corch trying to get a foul on Mourning in mid-court that was called offensive that none of us liked. Am I just mis-remembering?

  13. CStanley 03/29/2009 at 1:52 PM #

    Unreal call that I still cannot get over to this day. Makes me wonder what was on Hartzell’s mind…you cannot make that big of a mistake in a game. Maybe it was questionable as to whether there was a foul…but the whistle was blown, you can’t take it back. The only call to make is a foul…and he calls a travel???? How and why he did that I will never know. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, indicated that Corch could have traveled on that play.

    Personally, I think Hartzell knew it was going to foul out Mourning, he panicked and decided to call the travel. A chicken shit call that just happened to come against…yep, you guessed it…NC State.

    I don’t know if we would have beat Duke the next game…personally, after two Elite 8’s, I think it was our turn to make it to the F4 again. But we will never know. And if we don’t get a coach in here who can get the job done, we will never get back to this kind of relevancy.

  14. Noah 03/29/2009 at 2:07 PM #

    John Thompson, who is in my opinion the biggest asshole ever to coach in college.

    You’ll change your mind if you ever meet him. John Thompson is actually a total sweetheart. I hate Georgetown, but Thompson is a good guy.

    Jim Calhoun and Nolan Richardson would get my votes as the biggest assholes.

    Every time I see highlights of Rodney Monroe, I can’t help but think that a guy like that today would have gone pro after his sophomore season, gotten cut (remember that Monroe only had a brief cup of coffee with the Hawks) and no one would ever remember his name.

    While I have no problem with OBVIOUS NBA talent going straight to the NBA (Bryant, James, Durant), it’s the marginal guys who have totally unrealistic ideas about their pro prospects.

  15. howlie 03/29/2009 at 3:18 PM #

    Hartzell is clearly calling a foul… then blatantly and overtly changes the call.
    It’s not as if he “missed” the call; or his view was obscured; or his mind was changed by conferring with another ref… he changes his mind after the continuation of the play results in a made basket–and the reality of a three point play [which he can’t allow] is about to happen. A FOUL is one thing; allowing three points here is something he clearly CANNOT permit–so he erases his previous, certain call.

    I know the NBA point shaving ref was put away for shady, subtle stuff… but this is blatant. Afer “admitting” he had blown the call, I’m imagining…

    … our Board of Trustees made an announcement they were providing Hartzell a ‘letter of full support,’ and suggested the ACC refs give him a pay increase and contract extension? Any links to that?

  16. haze 03/29/2009 at 3:38 PM #

    ^ Agree about Monroe and other borderline NBA talents.

    I really believe that you are seeing this with Ellington at UNC, who is as close as anyone to being the next coming of Rodney Monroe (unreal shot but only OK handle/quickness/D). Of course, Rodney had better career numbers than Ellington but Rodney was also the focus of the O as he didn’t play on a team full of score-happy superstars.

  17. Noah 03/29/2009 at 5:42 PM #

    Randolph Childress was another one like Monroe (I don’t think he ever played in the NBA).

  18. transylvania 03/29/2009 at 8:09 PM #

    My sophomore year at State. Brings back good memories of Fire and Ice. Rodney sure could light it up, couldn’t he? We’ve been so bad for so long now, it’s almost hard to believe we were ever this good.

  19. choppack1 03/29/2009 at 9:34 PM #

    Noah – He played for the Jailblazers for a season or two tops.

    Regarding Ellington – the big difference between him and Rodney is his height. Ellington is 6-5 or 6-6 – Rodney was 6-2 (if that.)

    Even in 1991, there weren’t a lot of 2 Guards in the NBA shorter than 6-4. As previously noted, Rodney didn’t have a great handle, nor was he a great passer either.

    Hey, how about watching what happens to Hansborough when he plays against someone his own size AND he doesn’t get a ton of calls. If you were an NBA team, it isn’t even close…Tyler looked VERY average out there compared to Blake Griffin on the court – who was cleary superior in every aspect on the court today.

    This is the classic case of why I don’t ever criticize a kid for going pro. There is no doubt in my mind that TH’s stock has dropped a little each year. Of course, OTOH, Lawson has probably made some money this year by coming back – so who knows.

  20. Noah 03/29/2009 at 9:55 PM #

    This is the classic case of why I don’t ever criticize a kid for going pro. There is no doubt in my mind that TH’s stock has dropped a little each year. Of course, OTOH, Lawson has probably made some money this year by coming back – so who knows.

    If Hansborough had gone pro right out of high school, he probably would have been a lottery pick. Every year that he’s been at UNC, his draft stock has dropped.

    He’s only about 6-7. Unless you’ve got tremendous physical ability, you aren’t going to be a 6-7 power forward in the NBA. And Hansborough isn’t anyone’s small forward.

  21. wufpup76 03/29/2009 at 11:20 PM #

    “Tyler looked VERY average out there compared to Blake Griffin on the court – who was cleary superior in every aspect on the court today.”

    ^You’re right – it wasn’t close. Not hard to see who the better player is … anytime they battled for a rebound Griffin almost always came away with it.

    “Hey, how about watching what happens to Hansborough when he plays against someone his own size AND he doesn’t get a ton of calls.”

    ^And that is EXACTLY what he would look like on any other ACC squad not named Holes or Duke. I was literally laughing out loud listening to the Holes fans boo all the calls / non-calls in that game. Coddled much?

    What are the odds on Griffin having 4 fouls in the first half if he played on an ACC squad (other than Duke) meeting the Holes in the conference regular season? “You’re not getting away with being a better athlete and player in this league, sonny jim!!”

  22. Reynolds 12-16-1999 03/30/2009 at 8:34 AM #

    I remember that bad call against Corchiani 20 years ago. What a shame…

  23. tuckerdorm1983 03/18/2012 at 9:18 AM #

    maybe the Gods will favor us, Karma


  1. StateFans Nation » Blog Archive » Bobby Knight Was Right; NBA Ref Busted for Fixing Games - 07/20/2007

    uXxsBb mopmzmmqyjmn, [url=http://kxhnevsttiiu.com/]kxhnevsttiiu[/url], [link=http://rjmmxfrbfpfh.com/]rjmmxfrbfpfh[/link], http://euyjcjifdyzo.com/

  2. Glenwood Agency » March 31 Downtown Raleigh Update - 04/08/2009

    […] Worst call in tournament history? […]

Leave a Reply