March 23, 2024 

NCAA removes official at halftime of NC State-Chattanooga game due to “background conflict”

One of the referees working in Raleigh attended a school in the game

RALEIGH, N.C. — One of the officials was removed at halftime of No. 3 seed NC State’s win against No. 14 seed Chattanooga because of what the NCAA said was a “background conflict.”

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Umpire 2 Tommi Paris officiated the first half of Saturday’s game, but was subsequently removed from the game and replaced by Angelica Suffren, who had officiated the day’s first matchup between No. 6 Tennessee and No. 11 Green Bay.

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Associated Press reporter Bob Sutton noticed the switch and asked the NCAA about the development after the game as the pool reporter. Here is the NCAA’s statement:

“There was a switch of game officials at halftime of the Chattanooga-NC State first-round game because it was learned after the game had started that Umpire 2 Tommi Paris had a background conflict that, if known, would prevent her from working that assigned game,” the statement read. “The decision was made to move Angelica Suffren, who had worked the first game of the session, into the Umpire 2 position because it provided the most on-court experience and allowed the game to maintain a full officiating crew, plus standby.”

The NCAA did not clarify what, exactly, the official “background conflict” was for Paris. However, per a cursory search, Paris’ LinkedIn states that she is a graduate of Chattanooga, where she earned a Master’s in Public Administration. Paris’ bio on the Adamantine Energy website also states she attended Chattanooga.

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The development was unknown even after the game up until the pool report landed. NC State head coach Wes Moore was not asked about the official change after the game, when his team did its media first. When Chattanooga did, head coach Shawn Poppie was asked about it.

“[Chattanooga Executive Associate AD] Laura Herron came and got me in the locker room and said they were making a change,” Poppie said. “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t see anything specific, so I don’t know what that was… I wish I could talk more about it, I don’t really know.”

NC State Head Coach Wes Moore told media the following day he had known Paris since he attempted to recruit her when she was a high schooler growing up in Chattanooga. He joked with her on the sideline pregame about why she was officiating.

“I did say something about ‘how in the world are you doing this game?’ I hope that I had nothing to do with it. I was just bantering back and forth,” Moore said.

He said he was not part of the decision to pull Paris. He added that he hoped his comment was not the reason she was pulled and never questioned Paris’ integrity. Moore did not know about the change until he saw Suffren warming up before the third quarter began.

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Poppie also commented on the NCAA’s decision to insert Suffren instead of the official standby umpire, Danielle Jackson: “I thought that’s what standby was for, but I’m new to this thing too. We’re all learning. I’m not exactly sure what happened.”

In total, Chattanooga was called for 19 fouls compared to 10 on NC State. In the first half of the game, Chattanooga had nine fouls called on them compared to NC State’s three. In the second half, the Mocs once again had more fouls called on them, with 10 assessed to them compared to seven by the Wolfpack.

Many details remain scarce about the situation as of Saturday evening, including how the conflict was discovered, who made the decision to remove the official and what processes were or weren’t in place ahead of time. If the NCAA provides further details, The Next will update this story accordingly.

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This story was updated at 3:06 p.m. on Sunday, March 24th to include comment from NC State Coach West Moore.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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