Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Frank Weedon Was Involved In The Only Forfeit in ACC Basketball History

There are so many great stories about the late Frank Weedon, who died peacefully on Monday night at his home in Raleigh. This is just one of them. But it's a classic. I originally wrote it for "The Wolfpacker" a few years ago.

Copyright belongs to Coman Publishing. I hope Stu doesn't mind me reprinting it here.

BY TIM PEELER
The Wolfpacker

RALEIGH, N.C. – There have only been a couple games in ACC men’s basketball history that have ended before the official game clock expired. One was in 2006, when Duke’s game at Florida State ended with two seconds remaining on the clock.

It nearly happened again in 2012, when North Carolina coach Roy Williams took his starters and scholarship players off the floor at Florida State, leaving five walkons on the court to play the final 14.2 seconds.

But the richest story is of a shortened game between NC State and Maryland, in what turned out to be an odd confluence of bench mayhem and referee's ire during one of the most tumultuous seasons in league history.

It happened on Jan. 7, 1967, on a cold night in College Park, Md., as unrest swirled with a few snow flurries during the ACC’s winter of discontent.
Duke and South Carolina were feuding over the eligibility of one of the league’s best young players, Gamecock Mike Grosso. The dispute was so bitter the league allowed the two schools to cancel their two conference games against each other.

South Carolina and Clemson, the league’s two entries from the state that brought us the Civil War, nearly had a game canceled in the first half because of unrest in the stands, as poor Frank McGuire absorbed abuse from all directions.

There were three other games later that winter that involved fisticuffs between opposing players and fans and a condemnation of Duke fans for throwing heated pennies, among other things, at visiting teams.

But the State-Maryland game was all about a feud with official George Conley, a former Kentucky state senator who was also a well-respected ACC official. At the previous year’s ACC Tournament, which was played at NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum, Conley had brought a date to the game he was calling and gave her a seat at one of the tables in the end zone reserved for off-duty officials.

Tournament manager and NC State sports information director Frank Weedon, after being notified by press runner Jim Donnan that there was a lady on press row, kicked her out of the seat that was reserved strictly for game officials. When Conley was told she had to leave, a war of words erupted that ended with Conley saying “I’ll get even with you (SOBs) for this.”
Weedon filed a report of the incident with the school and with the league, just in case the topic ever came up again.

The fiery SID was horrified to see that Conley was one of two officials assigned to call the Wolfpack’s season opener the next season, in head coach Norman Sloan’s debut at his alma mater. Nothing happened in the game that seemed untoward, but then, as Sloan explained, “we were so bad you couldn’t tell anything about the officiating.”
Three weeks later, Conley and Roy Owen were assigned to call the game between the Pack and the Terps at Cole Field House. Heading into the final minutes, the teams were playing a close game, which was unusual for the Wolfpack in Sloan’s inaugural season for a team that finished with a horrific 7-19 record.

Conley repeatedly warned Sloan to keep his bench quiet throughout the game. In his autobiography, “Confessions of a Coach,” Sloan insisted that neither he nor his assistants, Charlie Bryant and Sam Esposito, were saying much out of the ordinary, but Conley persistently told the staff to keep it down. News accounts of the day suggested there was much chirping from the Wolfpack bench throughout the game.

“Who’s talking to the officials?” Sloan demanded during a timeout.
Turns out, the high-pitched, squeaky voice Conley had heard all night belonged to Weedon, who complained from his seat at the scorer’s table next to the Wolfpack bench that Conley was making calls unfavorable to the Wolfpack. When a Maryland player rammed into State guard Nick Trifunovich’s back and knocked the ball out of bounds, Conley refused to call a foul and gave the ball to the Terps. Both Sloan and Weedon, as they were wont to do, went a little ballistic.

Conley called a technical on the bench – meaning Weedon – and charged another to the head coach. They were the second and third technicals of the night against the Wolfpack staff.
Maryland’s Jay McMillen hit one of the two free throws to give the Terps a 60-55 lead. When Sloan reportedly said after McMillen’s miss “Isn’t that too bad?” Conley abruptly cancelled the game with 1:15 remaining and awarded Maryland the first and only forfeit in ACC history.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I’ve taken enough. The game is now over. The score as it stands is official.”
As Sloan stood stunned on the sidelines, Weedon shouted: “I told you not to let him do any of our games!”

Sloan confronted Conley in the officials’ lockerroom, a violation of ACC rules and etiquette. He was later sent a letter of reprimand from the league. Conley explained that he had seen someone on NC State’s bench making a gesture with his fist.

Sloan, following the Everett Case institution of filming all games, watched the game the next day with NC State chancellor John Caldwell and solved the mystery of exactly what happened. After Conley made the call, Weedon made a sarcastic gesture – though emphatically NOT an obscene one – that implied “Well, you got us back.”
Though upset, the coach nicknamed “Stormin’ Norman” could only shake his head at Weedon’s emotional antics.

Dr. Caldwell even issued a statement: “I have reviewed thoroughly with coach Norman Sloan last night’s episode at the Maryland-North Carolina State basketball game. It is neither possible nor necessary that I attempt in this statement to review all that transpired in the game situation Saturday night. Coach Sloan is an honorable and dedicated coach and a man of high standards. On the basis of my knowledge of the situation at present, I do not find that his conduct was in any way unusual or reprehensible.”
Caldwell did say that the coach shouldn’t get so many technical fouls. He didn’t mention Weedon’s conduct. And Conley never called another game involving the Wolfpack.

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