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NCAA sets interesting precedent by suspending Baylor’s Kim Mulkey one tournament game

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Kim Mulkey (Getty Images)

The next time the Baylor women's basketball team plays an NCAA tournament game, Kim Mulkey won't be coaching from the bench.

Mulkey received a public reprimand and a one-game NCAA tournament suspension from the NCAA on Tuesday morning as a result of disparaging comments she made about the officiating during Baylor's stunning 82-81 Sweet 16 loss to Louisville. In particular, Mulkey was displeased with the aggressive manner in which Louisville players defended star center Brittney Griner, with a late charging call against Baylor and with a late foul called on Griner that enabled the Cardinals to sink winning free throws.

"I thought the game started out way too physical, way too physical," Mulkey said in her postgame press conference. "I thought that all three [refs], if they go past this round of officiating, it will be sad for the game. I thought the two critical calls at the end of the game were really bad."

That the NCAA would suspend Mulkey for a tournament game seems overly harsh but players and coaches in other sports have received similar punishments.

Three UCSB men's soccer players received postseason suspensions in 2010 as a result of a post-match confrontation with a referee who awarded Cal a late penalty kick in an NCAA tournament match. The NCAA also recently suspended UCLA men’s water polo coach Adam Wright for his team's next NCAA tournament match after he confronted and verbally assaulted the officials following a season-ending loss to USC.

What's different about the Mulkey suspension is that it's more high-profile and that she wasn't penalized for confronting referees. Instead it was solely her criticism in her press conference that landed her in the NCAA's crosshairs – a controversial precedent made worse by the fact Mulkey had a valid point about the way in which Griner was defended.

The decision by the NCAA here is one sure to draw the attention of coaches in men's and women's basketball.

It's fairly common for a coach to express displeasure with the officiating in a postgame press conference, especially after an emotional season-ending NCAA tournament loss. Now coaches will have to be extra careful to bite their tongue when on the podium or risk sitting out a future NCAA tournament game.

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