Huggins fine not unfair, unreasonable, unconstitutional


“I can’t control what those three blind mice do.”

That line has become the most expensive rodent-related banter outside of Disney.

The quote, and the $10,000 fine the Big 12 Conference levied against West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins because he uttered it, have become legendary on social media.

For those just waking up from a week-long nap, Huggins used the “three blind mice” line as a pejorative aimed at the Big 12 officials who worked the West Virginia-Kansas game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday afternoon. Huggins was upset about what he perceived to be inconsistent foul calls in the game.

Mountaineers fans are in a fevered uproar online, with statements ranging from wanting to start GoFundMe accounts for Huggins to decrying the fine as a blatant violation of Huggins constitutional right to free speech. West Virginia fans are, to quote the kids, “raging” about the Big 12 punishment.

Sorry WVU fans, but this is going to be a wet blanket thrown upon your inferno of outrage. But some of you really need to hear it. Let’s put out a few of these rage fires.

  • The actions of the Big 12 were neither excessive nor draconian. This was Huggins third time publicly criticizing conference officials, and the $10,000 fine was in step with the conference’s progressive discipline regarding the issue. Huggins wasn’t fined any more than, say, TCU coach Jamie Dixon would have been if he were to receive a third-strike punishment in this area.
  • This has nothing to do with constitutional free speech. Let me rephrase that. This. Has. Nothing. To. Do. With. Constitutional. Free. Speech. “Free speech,” as understood in the U.S., refers to the First Amendment protection. This protection only covers speech regulated by federal, state and local governments. It has nothing to do workplace communication. And that is what Huggins rant and subsequent fine fall under. It’s a workplace issue. If Huggins is imprisoned for mocking basketball referees, then call the ACLU.
  • Not only wasn’t the officiating disparity in the game bad – it wasn’t a disparity. WVU was called for 18 fouls in the game. Kansas was called for 19.
  • There is no orchestrated grand conspiracy by the Big 12 Conference to stymie West Virginia University athletics. Yes, many times when WVU has gone into Allen Fieldhouse, the Mountaineers have come out on the short end of the officiating stick. So has everyone else. And guess what? When Big 12 teams come into the Coliseum, they often get the short straw from the refs. There have been empirical studies showing that crowds are the biggest propeller for home-field advantage. But it’s not in the ways traditionally believed (the energy of the crowd boosts the home team, the crowd noise make communication difficult for the opponents). The biggest reason for the advantage is that officials are biased towards the home team. This isn’t part of a grand conspiracy. It’s human nature and subconscious bias. Calls that go against the home team draw a negative response. Calls that go against the visiting team draw a positive one. As humans, we want to be liked and we crave approval. Here’s a secret: Contrary to popular belief, referees are human
  • Bob Huggins doesn’t need, nor does he want, your GoFundMe account. Huggins is millionaire. You are not. Huggins saves more than $10,000 a year by not wearing suits. He’s fine. If you want to donate to Huggins, support one of the cancer research charities he champions.
  • Huggins knew he was getting the fine before he stepped to the podium. It’s likely he sees this as an investment in his team’s future calls. He loudly made his protestation known with the knowledge that while he would be fined, his protest will linger in the subconscious of conference officials. If just a few calls go his team’s way that otherwise would not, he will consider it money well spent.

College sports fans are nothing if not passionate. And when they feel an injustice has been done to their team, the protests are loud and strong. The reaction to Huggins criticism of the officials and the fine that resulted are stark evidence to this.

It’s great to be passionate. It helps to be rational.