If referee Karl Hess truly is as thin-skinned as NC State fans insist he is, then the Wolfpack better hope he doesn't officiate one of their games anytime soon.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried torched any hope of a peaceful reconciliation between Hess and the school Monday night when he blasted the veteran ref over his ejection of Wolfpack legends Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani two days earlier.
Asked about the incident during an annual student rally on the eve of NC State's home game against rival North Carolina, Gottfried did not hold back the way he did in his news conference after Saturday's game. He called Hess' decision "weak" and said "the official was completely out of line 100 percent."
"I'm disappointed quite frankly in the ACC because not only did he throw out two of North Carolina State's greats, he threw out two of the ACC's greats," Gottfried said. "The league is supporting an official rather than supporting former great players. The former great players, in my opinion, were embarrassed and wronged when they shouldn't have been. I don't think you can have rabbit ears like that if you're a referee and start throwing people out. I was disappointed in the whole thing."
Hess drew the ire of the NC State community Saturday when he instructed a police officer to have Gugliotta and Corchiani removed from their courtside seats after they mouthed off about a few calls that went against the Wolfpack. Corchiani and Gugliotta have since acknowledged they were critical of Hess but insisted they were not profane.
"We were taking the game in, cheering, yelling like I've done the past 20 years," Corchiani, a former all-conference guard, told Yahoo! Sports radio. "Never once did we say anything that was threatening, any profanity, anything that was even on the line. That's why it was so baffling when we were asked to leave."
The ACC publicly reprimanded Hess on Monday, but the official reason was failing to follow proper procedure. According to league rules, Hess only had the authority to ask the home team's management to remove a fan rather than having a Raleigh police officer escort Gugliotta and Corchiani from their seats.
It's highly likely Gottfried did not expect his pep rally comments about Hess to spread via YouTube and social media because they could result in a fine and at minimum will further strain relations between NC State and the ACC. Nonetheless, they will win him popularity among his own fan base because they reflect the sentiments of most NC State supporters.
The feeling at NC State is that an ACC ref would never have had ex-North Carolina or Duke stars removed from a game for hollering at the refs. And while most of the time the Wolfpack's redheaded stepchild complex is unwarranted, in this case they may have a point.
As a result of the uproar surrounding Saturday's incident the ACC cannot have Hess officiate another NC State game the rest of this season — and perhaps even longer than that. Fans have long memories when it comes to referees they don't like, and fair or unfair, Hess is not a popular man in Raleigh these days.
- Karl Hess
- NC State