Loyalty is a tricky thing in the sports world, especially when someone makes the jump from player to media member. That sentiment was put to the test Friday night when ACC Network college basketball analyst and former Virginia Cavaliers star Cory Alexander got involved in a referee replay on a call that ultimately went against the Hoos and head coach Tony Bennett.
Virginia led Florida 71-69 with 59.4 seconds left Friday night when Florida’s Walter Clayton and Virginia’s Blake Buchanan both chased a ball out of bounds. Officials went to replay monitor and then ruled that it had gone off of Clayton, making it Virginia ball.
However, before play resumed, the officials walked over to the ACC Network broadcasting area where Alexander, calling the game alongside Doug Sherman, was showing them his monitor. After the officials saw something different, they changed their minds and awarded the ball to Florida. That set off Bennett, who started yelling at Alexander from across the court, “That’s on you. You can’t do that.”
“TB’s upset with me on this one because I told them,” said Alexander. “Tony Bennett is now yelling at me from across the court for allowing the officials to know, but the basketball goes out, it’s the right play on the floor.
“I’ll take that one, that’s on me.”
Tony Bennett was furious with ESPN's Cory Alexander for letting the refs check his monitor to overturn a call against Virginia. pic.twitter.com/0ZowSsL8Ir
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) November 11, 2023
Virginia ended up winning the game 73-70 and moved to 2-0 on the young college basketball season. Afterward, Alexander told reporters that official Lee Cassell had asked him if the officials had gotten the initial call right, and when Alexander told him he thought the call was wrong, that’s when they came over to see his monitor.
After the game – which Virginia won 73-70 to improve to 2-0 this season – Alexander explained that official Lee Cassell – likely reacting to Alexander’s on-air commentary – asked him if the officials had gotten the call right. Alexander answered what he believed was truthfully, that the call was wrong. Cassell then asked to see the ACC Network angle, which was different from the one on the replay monitor.
After the game, Bennett admitted he lost his temper over the move but was able to regroup thanks to his players.
“I probably lost my cool a little bit when that call was reversed and what I thought I saw, but it was interesting,” Bennett said. “Ryan [Dunn] was like, ‘Next play, next play.’ It’s nice when the players are telling you. Usually, you’re telling them that. I wasn’t ready to move on. I needed a little more time.”
Still, it sounded like Bennett wasn’t too keen on the idea of a media member influencing the outcome of a call on the floor.
“We’ll get to the bottom of it and we’ll figure out what happened,” said Bennett. “I thought we had the ball. But it’s all good.”
According to Richmond.com’s Mike Barber, Bennett and Alexander texted after the game and cleared the air.
Barber also noted that it’s not uncommon for officials to use replay footage from the broadcasting network during a college basketball game to help them make the right call. It was perhaps Alexander’s persistence and admission on-air that he was discussing the call openly with officials that made this feel a little murky to Bennett and others.
Throw in the fact that Alexander is a Virginia alum and you can understand why there also might have been some kind of sense of loyalty at play, though once you join the media, that’s supposed to go out the window. It certainly wasn’t part of the decision for Alexander.
Did Alexander do the right thing? It’s hard to say, though it’s worth noting he was initially approached by the ref. We’d imagine it’ll be an internal discussion this week for the broadcasting team.