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.

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

  1. graywolf 03/18/2012 at 9:23 AM #

    Worst call ever…yeah no doubt

  2. ADVENTUROO 03/18/2012 at 9:46 AM #

    Jimmy V, in his audio book “Lifetime Contract” said that he made sure that he got three things out of his office. A letter from John Wooden on his victory and coaching in the 1983 NCAA, a letter from the NCAA official that was the lead investigator and said that he would be pleased to have Coach V. coach his son, AND a letter of apology from Ref Hartzell about “THE CALL”.

    He also quipped that he took his “Distinguished Service Plaque” that the NCSU Faculty Senate had awarded him in the late 80’s.

    You gotta LOVE this stuff.

    Corchiana was on the front row on Friday. In the lobby, he told us that he was going to be “GOOD”. Hope he doesn’t have to resort to being BAD today.

    GO PACK.

  3. wolfonthehill 03/18/2012 at 10:07 AM #

    So Jeff – fall of ’89 was your freshman year, too? I feel like the jinx… everything pretty much went south for the Pack once I mailed in my acceptance…

  4. choppack1 03/18/2012 at 10:08 AM #

    Why did I watch that again?

  5. buclark 03/18/2012 at 10:33 AM #

    The next year Coach Valvano was in Atlanta for a wolfpack Club meeting to raise money for what is now the RBC center. I was bringing him his beloved red wine and I congratulated him on his ability to bite his tongue after the call. He did say how hard it was not to publicly complain. The man had so much class.

  6. EdMar 03/18/2012 at 10:33 AM #

    Maybe Corch. should talk to the team before the game today. Go get them Pack!

  7. vtpackfan 03/18/2012 at 11:22 AM #

    Hopefully Corch sold his game shoes to fat cat G Town political insider and got something out of the horse crap call.:)

  8. triadwolf 03/18/2012 at 11:22 AM #

    That was my senior year at State and one of my most painful moments. I don’t know why I watched that again, it’s really a great example (one of many) of why we sometimes feel like it’s the Wolfpack against the world.

    I remember that team having so much chemistry and I really do think we would have beat Duke. I’m not sure we would have advanced in the Final Four, but once you get there you never know what will happen (1983 anyone?).

    Man, I really forgot how good Monroe was at creating his own shot. Everyone tends to remember him as a great jump shooter, but he really was an all around scorer.

  9. vtpackfan 03/18/2012 at 11:36 AM #

    Imagine if Woo had just of a smidge of Ice to his game. We would p pr obably be the best offensive team in the tourney field. Not trying to single him out beause its not the strength of his game. If only the he would have spent a little time under former regime doing something other then running figure 8′ s from one side of arc to the other he may have redefined game a bit more.

  10. Brad 02/22/2013 at 9:30 AM #

    The author mentions that Duke would have had to face a State squad that had defeated them that year and who had it’s “march motor” running.

    Two points: Duke beat State by 21 points in the last regular season meeting that year. Second, in terms of “march motor” In the prior three seasons, Duke played for the National Title (86), made the sweet 16 after losing five seniors (1987) made the Final Four(1988), if anything State didn’t want to play Duke!

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