• 37°

NCAA basketball referee is target of death threats after Kentucky game

By Eric Olson

AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Referee John Higgins of Omaha reported he received death threats after Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, a Nebraska law enforcement official said Wednesday.

Higgins’ roofing company received about 3,000 harassing emails and an unknown number of phone calls, some including death threats, said Capt. Kevin Griger, investigations commander for the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Department.

North Carolina defeated Kentucky 75-73 on Sunday to advance to the Final Four, winning on Luke Maye’s last-second shot. Kentucky coach John Calipari opened his news conference with a comment about foul calls, complaining about freshmen stars Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk each picking up two fouls in the first half.

“You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my team. Amazing that we had a chance,” Calipari said.

Calipari on Wednesday tried to calm the fan reaction on Twitter.

“I always brag that we have the classiest fans in the country,” Calipari said. “Let’s make sure we remain that way even after a tough loss.”

The Facebook page for Higgins’ roofing company also was inundated with negative comments about Higgins and the quality of his company’s work. Griger described it as an orchestrated effort to “run down his Better Business Bureau rating.”

Higgins also spoke with Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer about death threats he received on his home phone, which has an unlisted number, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Higgins’ home is in Omaha, in Douglas County, and his roofing company’s office is in neighboring Sarpy County. Omaha police spokesman Michael Pecha said officers are providing extra attention to Higgins’ residence.

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, said Higgins is still scheduled to work one of the games in the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday.

Higgins will be working his eighth Final Four.

Gavitt said that while the NCAA appreciates the passion fans bring to college basketball, the behavior of some fans toward Higgins is not appropriate.

“John is one of the most experienced and qualified college referees in the country, evidenced by his many years of officiating during March Madness, and for some fans to not only question his character but also criticize his private business is unfortunate,” Gavitt said. “While we understand it’s nearly impossible to officiate a game without fans getting upset about a call, it’s also important that behavior during or after a game reflects the same standards of good sportsmanship that we encourage of our coaches and student-athletes.”

It’s unclear whether the two other officials who worked the game, Keith Kimble and Mike Reed, received any threats.

The Kentucky athletic department released a statement asking fans to show good sportsmanship.

Griger said Higgins on Tuesday spoke with Sarpy County investigators about the death threats. None of the threats were specific, Griger said.

He said investigators would go through each Facebook message to determine its credibility and, if any are found to be credible, would work with Facebook to locate the sender.


For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25



Defendant convicted in attempted murder case on the run after fleeing from trial


Downtown Gateway Building to be renamed for late Paul Fisher


Rowan County COVID-19 data for April 15


Rep. Warren’s bill would prohibit parking in electric vehicle charging stations


Historic Preservation Commission approves Integro Technologies expansion, Paint the Pavement project


Faith Academy, RSS will negotiate over what goes, stays in elementary school


Teacher killed in Alamance County shootout with Mexican drug cartel


Bill would give more tax breaks on COVID-19 loans


No response as divers knock on capsized ship’s hull


Quotes of the week


Blotter: Man found on church property with litany of drugs


Man charged in connection to 2019 overdose death


‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday


Schools capital funding still frozen as RSS sends local budget to county


Shields, Cheerwine Festival receive N.C. Main Street Awards


Duke University launches kidney disease study in Kannapolis for people of African descent


Horizons Unlimited will hold in-person summer camps


Education briefs: Catawba planning for more in-person activities, free summer school tuition


County’s full COVID-19 vaccinations top 22,600

High School

High school golf: With Merrell, Mustangs back on top


Spencer investigating rat problem on South Iredell Street


Livingstone, Mission House Church to host national ‘Black Voters Matter’ listening session




Groundbreaking on Pennant Square signals next phase in downtown Kannapolis revitalization