Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger calls spying allegations against Kansas State 'incredibly disappointing'

Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger watches from the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger spoke out Saturday amid rumors of cheating vs. Kansas State. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa State's 78-67 win over Kansas State on Wednesday made headlines after the opposing head coaches engaged in two seemingly heated exchanges. Media reports began to circulate the next day about alleged cheating by the Cyclones during the matchup. On Saturday, Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger cleared the air.

"It's incredibly disappointing that after such an awesome game, an awesome environment and atmosphere, that I even have to begin by addressing something that happened earlier this week," Otzelberger told reporters after a 79-75 win against No. 8 Kansas. "The ludicrous rumors earlier this week that somehow we were trying to gain an advantage looking into our opponents' huddles is an affront to our players, our fans and to me."

He went on to claim that the real issue stemmed from a Kansas State staff member cursing out a student manager who was attempting to mop the floor under the basket.

Speculation began when Wildcats head coach Jerome Tang was seen animatedly pointing at the crowd during a timeout Wednesday, eventually approaching Otzelberger at midcourt for a conversation. After the buzzer, Tang was visibly upset as he spoke with Otzelberger again in the handshake line.

But when each coach faced reporters for their respective news conferences, neither of them addressed the incidents. “I know you saw what you saw,” Tang said, “but I’m not going to talk about it.”

Meanwhile, Otzelberger described the circumstance as a "time where things are said between coaches that needs to stay that way.”

For a moment, it seemed like the whole situation could be boiled down to the behavior of Cyclones fans who may have offended Tang or his team. But things changed Thursday when the cheating allegations surfaced via an anonymously sourced report from the Kansas City Star.

Kansas State was reportedly worried that Iowa State gained an unfair advantage by positioning "managers and/or other team representatives in spots behind the visiting bench where they could view, and possibly record, the Wildcats as they huddled up during timeouts." A similar report from the Wichita Eagle claimed the Wildcats were concerned about ISU spies "quickly passing information to the Iowa State bench via text messages."

Otzelberger didn't mince words as he responded to the allegations, apparently addressing the anonymous sources:

"Let's put this to bed here and now," he said. "It didn't happen. It won't happen. And others need to be much more careful with their words moving forward."

Tang didn't discuss the situation Saturday after the team took another road loss, this time falling 74-52 to Houston.