This time, the whistle is being blown against college basketball's referees, not by them.
At least one prominent Big Ten official and several others were punished for accessing unauthorized information on a referee website, ESPN reported Thursday. The website, BlueZebraSports.com, is an officiating site that holds secure information on referees from around the country, including their compensation and schedules.
The site's owner, Bradley Batt, called foul on two clients who abused and "manipulated our system in a malicious manner to gain access to the sites of coordinators for whom they worked."
Each conference had its own mini-site. One referee who was punished was Bo Boroski, an NCAA tournament official last year, who will not work any games this year as a result. He told ESPN that there was "no malicious intent."
Another referee told ESPN that: "It was stupid. It fell in our lap, but it wasn't with ill intent. We're not computer hackers. We're kicking ourselves why we did it, but it fell in our lap."
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Breaking the code
Of course, it's always strange to see the men in the black-and-white uniforms suddenly being accused of bending the rules to their advantage.
But it's not such a funny issue in this case.
This is how these people make a living and to have other people in their industry accessing their personal information is a severe violation of privacy and trust. The website is used by the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12, Big East and Mountain West, meaning officials working games at dozens of schools could have been exposed by the breach.
But just as many players disappoint with their antics off the field, it's foolish to believe that officials are straight laced away from their day jobs. Some are, some aren't, and the same holds true for any group.
Don't expect this to be over.
A few referees expressed that they had hired lawyers, suggesting that many will fight their suspensions and try to be re-instated to work games this year. Which is unsurprising, considering their livelihoods for this year and maybe even the future are at stake.
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