Coach earns fine, suspension for Twitter criticism of referees

Discipline for Twitter comments is usually reserved to high school athletes, yet one coach in Kentucky has landed in hot water himself, following defamatory comments he made about game officials at a game in January.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Jeffersontown (Ky.) High head coach Jeff Morrow, on the far right in the photo above, called out referee Tom Wallace, who credited Bullitt East (Ky.) High with a game-winning bucket with no time remaining in a 56-54, overtime defeat on Jan. 14. The loss came in the quarterfinals of the Republic Bank/Coca-Cola Louisville Invitational Tournament. And the deciding basket was shown to have come after the buzzer on televised replays, leading to the following series of Tweets from Morrow's Twitter account, twitter.com/jtownhoops, which is co-branded as the home of Jeffersontown basketball.

Totally unacceptable for 3 refs not to see backboard lit up. My kids fought with everything they had to make a game out if this.

thanks Mike I knew that was the case without seeing it but can't wait to see your video!

RT @molmstead3 Derek Willis from Bullitt E. on his OT putback after the buzzer that beat top-ranked J'town: "I think the refs helped us out on that one."

In no way is my disgust with the refs intended to take anything away fro Bullitt East tonight. They played very well & have a nice team.

Their kids played hard enough to win the game. I have no problems with them winning the game. My hats off to them.

He followed those tweets, among others, up with this on Jan. 15:

2day was a teachable moment 4 our guys. All of us including me reacted from emotion last night. Absolutely a bad call on last shot ....

Those comments led to a $1,500 fine on the Jeffersontown basketball program, believed to be the first fine ever handed down by the Kentucky High School Activities Association for a social media posting. The coach sent a total of 16 tweets on Jan. 14 and 15, meaning that the fine broke down to a staggering $93.75 per tweet.

For his part, Morrow -- who was also suspended from the coaching box for three games -- said he felt the school was unfairly penalized for his personal mistake.

"I don't think it's fair to have the school pay it," Morrow told the Courier-Journal. "They're not the ones who did it.

"I regretted it shortly after it happened. I'm sorry that it happened, and I've learned from it and it won't happen again."

The coach met with Jeffersontown athletic director Jeff Edwards after the reprimand was handed down by the KHSAA, but Edwards said there was no plan to bring further discipline against the coach, insisting that the school's athletic department was "moving on."

That may be in the best interest of all involved, with the entire incident providing an important precedent not only for Kentucky, but for all coaches on Twitter across the country.

"Public coaching commentary about officiating is a natural part of the contest," KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett wrote in a press release. "But when the individual names or positions are used by the coaches in such criticism, it crosses the line of what's permitted."

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