Paul Ralston, the radio voice of North Dakota basketball, has been suspended by the school for two games after calling the team's 74-72 loss to Northern Arizona on Saturday a "choke job" during an interview with coach Brian Jones. The team missed five free throws down the stretch after leading in the final minute, and ended up losing in overtime.
By all accounts, North Dakota did indeed choke the game away. In addition to the missed free throws late in the game, the team turned the ball over 21 times, including twice in the last two minutes of the game. Suspending Ralston for merely mentioning the phrase "choke job" seems excessive, but I can see the logic of North Dakota's athletic department considering Ralston said the phrase to the coach's face directly after a tough loss.
Ralston is also the director of broadcast properties for the university, so him calling out someone who is essentially a coworker was obviously frowned upon by the school. Still, it's an extraordinary step for a school to suspend their own play by play man and one rarely ever seen. There's some significant questions worth asking in this situation and just how much freedom announcers should have for fear of punishment from their respective schools, but clearly North Dakota felt Ralston crossed a line.
He'll return to his play by play duties on February 28th, and be replaced in the two games he'll miss by North Dakota associate athletic director Kyle Doperalski. My guess is when Ralston returns he'll be much more careful to not be as blunt in his assessment of North Dakota hoops.