To this day, it’s considered the most notorious referee-coach confrontation in modern college basketball history. Long time NCAA official Ted Valentine ejected former Indiana head coach Bob Knight in 1998 after Knight ran on the court arguing a call Valentine made. In this week’s SI, senior writer Seth Davis profiles the 54-year-old NCAA basketball referee, who has turned into an inviting target for fans across the country due to his stylistic flourishes on the court and the infamous run-in with Knight 15 years ago. “The greatest travesty I’ve ever seen in basketball in 33 years as a college head coach,” Knight once said (PAGE 68).
Despite being hated by many and having the dubious nickname of “TV Teddy,” he is still amongst the very best at what he does. Valentine has officiated thousands of games, including five Final Fours and four national title games. From 1994 to 1997, he worked three consecutive national championship games, a remarkable accomplishment considering he had not yet turned 40. Valentine is currently officiating in the ACC, Big East and Conference USA.
“He’s not going to be swayed by any coach. He’s not going to be swayed by any crowd. There are always going to be 50-50 calls in a game, and I don’t think Ted misses many of those,” says Indiana’s Head Coach Tom Crean (PAGE 66).
During his time off, he will spend some time Googling himself, combing through articles, blogs and message boards that proclaim how awful he is. He finds most of them amusing. “I get blamed for games I didn’t even ref,” says Valentine (PAGE 66).
Valentine compares himself with George Foreman, who transformed himself from a menacing young fighter into a cuddly middle-aged guy who sold grills. “I laugh more…I talk with the fans more. I like when they tease me. I really do,” says Valentine (PAGE 70).
The old refs who watched Valentine break into the business marvel at his ability to survive and advance. “Ted has done a great job of adapting…In our business we’re nomads. There’s always somebody who wants you, and there’s always somebody who’s mad at you,” says Tim Higgins, a retired veteran of 10 Final Fours (PAGE 70).