If it takes 6:25 to make the right call, well, okay

Associated Press
Published March 29, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas - The wait, everyone agreed, seemed to take forever. And that was just to see whether Patrick Sparks' buzzer-beating shot was going to fall into the net.

Then, the real drama began.

With a Final Four berth on the line for Kentucky and Michigan State, referee James Burr and his crew wanted to take their time to make darn sure they were right before ruling whether Sparks had just made the most intriguing shot in an NCAA Tournament already overflowing with signature moments.

And, boy, did they ever take their time: 6 minutes, 25 seconds, according to a stopwatch review by CBS on Monday.

"It seemed like it lasted for an eternity," Wildcats coach Tubby Smith said.

After a zoom shot of Sparks' right blue-and-white sneaker showed that the tip of his toe was not clearly on the line, Burr flashed the last three fingers on each hand, making it a 3-pointer that tied the score at 75, forcing overtime. The Spartans wound up winning 94-88 in two overtimes.

The college basketball world will be buzzing for quite a while over this one, a shot that's guaranteed to be a staple of March Madness moments for generations to come because it featured so many elements, from the rim action to the long delay.

Especially the long delay.

The folks who set up how to handle these types of situations credited officials for a job well done, regardless of how long it took.

"You have to get the play right, whatever it takes," said Hank Nichols, the NCAA's national coordinator of officials.

The NCAA has no time limit, unlike the NFL, which gives officials 90 seconds to make up their mind.

Ed Bilik, editor of the men's basketball rules committee, said he didn't recall a time limit ever being discussed. It may come up now, he said, "but I'm not sure that's going to amount to anything."