Midway through the second half of Wednesday night's whistle-heavy matchup between Auburn and South Carolina, 41-year-old Michael Hardin discovered that even fans were susceptible to the wrath of the referees.
The Auburn fan was ejected with about 12 minutes remaining in the Tigers' 83-67 victory after saying something critical of referee Ted Valentine from his courtside seat behind the baseline.
A sparse Auburn crowd had been vocal in its displeasure with the officiating at that point in the game because of the disparity in fouls called against the two teams. The Tigers had already been charged with eight fouls before referees whistled guard Sindarius Thornwell for South Carolina's first foul of the second half.
"I think everybody who was sitting with me was pretty much frustrated with the calls and we had been telling the refs to blow their whistle," Hardin told AL.com. "They have a whistle, blow it, and on that last play Jordon Granger drove the lane and he got slapped so hard on the arm that everybody could hear it. They didn't call a foul and as soon as that ref came over in front of us, I simply said to him, 'Did you hear that?' I said it pretty loud. As soon as I said that he turned around he said 'I want him out of here.'"
Even though Valentine has the nickname of "TV Teddy" and a reputation as an attention seeker, it's difficult to believe he would eject fan without any cursing involved. In a Sports Illustrated profile from last March, Valentine explained his philosophy of dealing with critical fans.
I like it when they tease me. I really do," he said. "They'll be yelling and screaming and I might say, 'Hey, I don't come to your office yelling at you.'"
Hardin certainly isn't the first fan to be ejected from a recent college basketball game.
Earlier this month, a Memphis fan seated courtside nearly had to be removed by force after referee Jim Burr ejected him. And in Feb. 2012, referee Karl Hess instructed security to remove former NBA forward Tom Gugliotta and former NCAA career assists record holder Chris Corchiani from their courtside seats at NC State.
(Thanks for the video, The Big Lead)