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Adell Harris players knew. Her own coaches on the UNCW women's basketball staff felt the same way. She couldn't worry about it. At least not then.

But after her team's 39-point loss at College of Charleston on Sunday, Jan. 8, "probably the worst game we've had all year" the Colonial Athletic Association eventually agreed with everyone around her.

On Thursday morning, the league office decided to flip that result, as well as a win for the Cougars against William & Mary two days earlier, after an investigation into improper basketballs used in those games. A statement from the league said improper basketballs; Rob Washburn, the CAA associate commissioner for communications, said the issue was an incorrect size.

"We had an idea that this might happen for awhile," Harris said late Thursday morning after landing in Philadelphia for this weekend s two-game roadtrip. "(The league office) had been keeping up updated as to what was going on with their investigation."

While the teams official records won't change, the CAA will adjust the three affected teams records for seeding the conference tournament, set for March at James Madison. For those purposes, Charleston goes from 3-6 to 1-8 in the CAA. UNCW improves from 3-6 to 4-5; William & Mary advances from 3-5 to 4-4.

Right off the bat

The confusion started the previous day, when the Seahawks arrived for their practice at Charleston's TD Arena.

"Every kid, and even the coaches, said, 'Those are men's balls,' " Harris said. "We asked their manager, Hey, can you get us the women's rack? They said it was the women's rack, but that people talk about them all the time feeling like they're men's."

"It kept going for about 10 minutes. I finally told (my team) to shut up and stop complaining about it and shoot. I was on the mission of, 'We can't control that, let's not get distracted.' "

A women's basketball is approximately 28.5 inches in circumference and weighs 20 ounces when properly inflated. A men's basketball is 29.5 inches and 22 ounces, dramatic differences when you have them in your hand.
 
A similar, incorrect ball was used in the next day's game, a 76-37 UNCW loss. The Seahawks shot a season-low 21.0 percent from the field (13-for-62) and 1-for-18 from 3-point range.

"We were, terrible," Harris said, "probably the worst game we've had all year. That had nothing to do with missed boxouts and other things, but we couldn't even catch the ball."

Two days before, William & Mary coming off a 10-1 non-conference season had lost 70-60 to the 3-9 Cougars after a 3-for-17 night from 3-point range. The Tribe have shot 32.6 percent from long range for the season. Harris said she talked with William & Mary coach Ed Swanson and said they agreed: Something was wrong with the basketball.

Making fixes

For CAA Commissioner Joe D Antonio, things changed quickly the following week on a Friday the 13th, no less.

The Cougars were wrapping up a three-game homestand against Elon. The Phoenix, who lead the conference standings, also had concerns about the basketballs from their morning shootaround and contacted the league office. Elon wouldn't comment on its role, saying Thursday in a statement, "We are pleased the issue has been resolved."
 
"Charleston was really good about it, cooperated fully," D'Antonio said. "The balls in the shootaround were wrong. We changed them out. That game (Elon won, 84-56) got played correctly."

The investigation by the CAA office found that Charleston had used the incorrect basketballs all season, including four non-conference home losses. At that point, D'Antonio knew action had to be taken.

"Sometimes things can be deceiving to the naked eye ... but this is the first time I've heard of something like this occurring," D'Antonio said.

According to the release, Commissioner D'Antonio had wanted the College of Charleston to fully vacate both victories, but was informed by the NCAA that this is not a situation that would meet the current definition of a forfeit or a no contest per the NCAA Women's Basketball Rules Book.

He confirmed that request, saying: "The NCAA doesn't have an option for this type of situation in their rule book to change the outcome of a game, forfeiture or no contest, once the game has been completed. I was only able to take a localized action."

Through the rest of the season, the standings will not reflect the changes, but a footnote will be placed to remind teams that updates will be made before the tournament seeds and schedule are released.

The history book will always say the game is a loss for UNCW still 8-12 overall and 3-6 in the CAA, with one of the biggest asterisks in the sport's recent memory but the players and coaches at least know that someone listened, and thought otherwise.

"I appreciate the commissioner doing due diligence on the subject," Harris said. "We're not going to get that overall win, but I think our kids feel better about that situation."

"And we're playing better now. It'll make a huge difference in March."

Sports editor Dan Spears can be reached at 910.343.2038 or Dan.Spears@StarNewsOnline.com

 

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February 3, 2017
 
 

 

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